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Bangladesh: Workshop on Web Accessibility Focuses on Digital Accessibility of Government Websites and E-Services

October 27, 2021

According to the Hon'ble Prime minister's direction and the leadership and guidance of ICT Adviser, Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Programme has been working sincerely under the ICT Division and Cabinet Division of Government of Bangladesh to forward the country towards the country's vision of 'Digital Bangladesh.' In addition to creating citizen-friendly services, the Bangladesh government emphasizes ensuring the accessibility of e-services to ensure inclusive public services. Continuing with that national priority, Aspire to Innovate (a2i) Program and Bangladesh Association of Software and Information (BASIS) jointly organized a workshop on 'National Web Accessibility' on 26 October 2021 with representatives from IT organizations that are members of BASIS. The workshop's main objective was to ensure accessibility to all government websites and e-services, including for persons with disabilities, to ensure inclusive web and e-services.

The workshop was dignified by the participation of Mr. N M Zeaul Alam, PAA, Senior Secretary, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Division, as the Chief Guest. Dr. Shah Alam, Chief Innovation Officer (Additional Secretary) of Ministry of Social Welfare, Dr. Shahnaz Arefin, Chief Innovation Officer (Additional Secretary) of the Cabinet Division, and Mr. Rashad Kabir, Director of BASIS were present there as the special guests and the Project Director of a2i, Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir was present there as the president of the workshop. The workshop was hosted by Mr. Manik Mahmud, Head of social innovation cluster, a2i. Honorable guests and experts provide their valuable feedback on the web or e-service accessibility at this workshop. Thanking all the guests and participants of the workshop, Dr. Dewan Muhammad Humayun Kabir inaugurated the event with his welcome speech. He emphasized ensuring web accessibility sharing the 'Persons with Disabilities Rights and Protection Act 2013' and other national priorities.

Hon'ble chief guest Mr. N M Zeaul Alam requested all the present IT organizations to ensure web accessibility and instructed BASIS to conduct capacity development workshops for the IT companies so that they can be able to ensure accessible e-services. Almost all of the participants focused on the fact that persons with disabilities are the most deprived community in our country because discrimination cuts off their rights to avail of public services as well as deprives them of all mainstream development initiatives. Therefore, considering the rights of persons with disabilities to avail of public services, all the e-service needs to be accessible. Dr. Shah Alam, Chief Innovation Officer of the Ministry of Social Welfare, shared his commitment to extending all possible cooperation from his Ministry in this process of developing inclusive public services. The Chief Innovation Officer of Cabinet Division, Dr. Shahnaz Arefin, requested BASIS to ensure the capacity of IT organizations in developing accessible online service and also committed to extend her cooperation on behalf of the Cabinet Division in publishing the national web accessibility guideline. She also pronounced that the collaborative approach between government and IT industry can only solve the problem of inaccessibility in e-services to ensure inclusive services for all.

UNESCO award-winning disability rights activist and Accessibility Consultant of a2i, Mr. Vashkar Bhattacharjee, shared an informative presentation on Web Accessibility at the workshop highlighting the importance and necessity of web accessibility mentioning different laws and national priorities. Mr. Vashkar presented the draft national web accessibility guideline and different barriers of persons with disabilities in accessing websites or e-services and their associated solutions. He also showed the accessibility plugin that was developed considering the w3c 2.1 guidelines regarding web accessibility.

One of the guests, Mr. Eshaq Shahin Bhuyan, Capacity Development Officer, Bangladesh Visually Impaired People's Society, who is a person with a disability, presented a live demonstration of an accessible website, the largest e-learning platform in Bengali, MuktoPaath, with assistive technologies. Among the others, Mr. Md. Golam Rabbani, Analyst (Forensic), Bangladesh Computer Council, attended the workshop and shared his experience of developing the accessible e-learning platform Emporia, a dedicated platform for the capacity development of persons with disabilities. Thanking a2i for organizing such an important workshop, he also emphasized using the accessibility tool and requested all the participants follow the web accessibility guideline to make all e-services accessible.

a2i Programme has started working to make the government platforms accessible such as National Portal of the country, e-filing system-Nothi, skills platform-National Intelligence Skills, Employment and Entrepreneurship (NISE³), One-stop payment platform- ekPay, the platform for virtual meeting-Boithok and the single platform for all government services-myGov).