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Digital inaccessibility key issue for visually impaired in India, say experts

Coinciding with Visually Impaired Week ending on Friday, experts call for inclusive education for disabled kids in school environment

Ahmad Adil   | 13.01.2022
Digital inaccessibility key issue for visually impaired in India, say experts


Demanding enforcement of laws properly to help visually challenged persons, experts said there was a need to remove skewed images associated with them.

Coinciding with the Visually Impaired Week which ends on Friday, Nidhi Goyal, a disabled feminist activist and founder of Rising Flame -- a non-governmental organization based in the Indian city of Mumbai -- told Anadolu Agency that "blind and low vision persons continue to experience all the barriers one can imagine.”

She said there was a need to remove the skewed image of blind people as they are helpless.

"We have to enforce the laws, and each of us has to take responsibility for making a more inclusive world," said Goyal, adding that inaccessibility has a great impact, and it further disempowers a woman who is blind or vision impaired.

Quoting the National Blindness Survey, Indian Vice President, M. Venkaiah Naidu said last year in September that India hosts 6.8 million people, who suffer from corneal blindness in at least one eye, and of these around 1 million are blind in both eyes.

According to the survey, the prevalence of blindness in the country has come down to 0.36% from the 1% during 2006-07.

Goyal, a former member at UN Women Executive Director's Civil Society Advisory Group, and a member of the core group, dealing with disability and the elderly person at India's National Human Rights Commission said that another major area of concern for the visually impaired is their inaccessibility to the digital world.

She said that when the COVID-19 vaccination began in the country, the portal was not accessible to blind and low vision users and her NGO launched a drive to support disabled people to be able to enroll, register, and get vaccinated.

Braille literacy

On Braille literacy, the activist said that braille learning is possible only in special schools and non-governmental organizations.

"In India, there is very little inclusive education. There is still a lot of hesitation in schools to admit disabled kids in an inclusive school environment. Plus, there are very few trained educators and facilities," she said.

Urging the government to take more steps, Goyal said that proper implementation of laws is still an issue.

"The whole mechanism of holding private and public entities accountable, enforcing the laws to realize the rights of disabled people, and holding organizations accountable is missing at the government level," she said.

Dheeraj Bhola, who heads Delhi-based Blind Welfare Society, an organization working mostly for the education of the visually impaired said that digital inaccessibility continues to remain the major problem.

"When India brought the Right of Persons with Disability Act in 2016, it said everything should be made accessible for visually disabled. But today as well, not everything is accessible online," he said.

He added that even many government websites have not kept visually impaired people in mind.

Bhola said that in higher education, not all books are accessible to the visually impaired.

"It is the government which needs to do a lot of things regarding implementation of laws so that equal opportunities are available for disabled people. Government should especially focus on the education sector,” he said.

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