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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Shaping a more disabled-friendly digital ecosystem        

 

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of national importance(Different social service Schemes, NFHS, Rights of persons with disabilities act.,2016, digital India, census 2011 etc )
  • Mains GS Paper II & III: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services etc.

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Census 2011: 21(two point two one)% of India’s population is disabled is a gross underestimation.
    • According to the World Health Organization, about 16% of the global population is disabled.

population

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

Disability:

  • It is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions.
  • An impairment is a problem in body function or structure;
  • An activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action
  • A participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations.

 

Constitutional Frameworks for Disabled in India

  • Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that State shall make effective provision for securing right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.
  • The subject of ‘relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is specified in the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the constitution.

 

Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016:

  • Disability has been defined on the basis of evolving and dynamic concepts.
  • The types of disabilities have been increased from 7 to 21.
  • The act added mental illness, autism, spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disability, thalassemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, multiple disabilities including deaf, blindness, acid attack victims and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Government has been authorized to notify any other category of specified disability.
  • It increases the quantum of reservation for people suffering from disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher education institutes.
  • Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
  • Government funded educational institutions as well as the government recognized institutions will have to provide inclusive education.
  • The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioners will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies, monitoring implementation of the Act.
  • Separate National and State Fund created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities.
  • Women and children are particularly vulnerable, and certain rights, such as reproductive rights,may be even more neglected or disregarded as compared to others.

 

Digital ecosystem and disability:

  • India: 750 million Internet/smartphone users in 2020.
  • Roughly 12 crore Internet/smartphone users with disabilities.

 

Increase in digital use:

  • Use of apps to order groceries, food, medicines, in dating, socializing, entertainment and education.

 

Report that evaluates the accessibility of 10 of the most widely used apps in India, across five sectors:

  • The report was launched by, Secretary, Department of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities, Government of India.
  • These sectors were chosen based on broad stakeholder consultation with people with disabilities, and the 10 apps, based on the amount of online traffic.
  • The apps were Zomato, Swiggy, PayTM, PhonePe, Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola, WhatsApp and Telegram.
  • Use of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines:
    • A set of globally recognised parameters to determine how disabled friendly an app or website is to evaluate these apps.
  • Based on the number of violations: The level of accessibility of the apps as “high”, “medium” and “low”.
  • Finding of the report:
    • Four out of the 10 apps ranked low, while five were in the medium category.
  • The only app which sent a representative was the one ranked high in the index, i.e., WhatsApp.

 

Goal for launching this report and rating index:

  • Start discussions on digital accessibility, product design and the development process.
  • Digital accessibility of the apps.
  • Work with these service providers and help them design practices and processes that will not only improve app accessibility but also educate their stakeholders about accessibility and people with disabilities.
  • Improve design and development practices so that the apps are accessible right from the inception.
  • Change attitudes around disability in the country, especially within the business community — moving them away from a charity approach to a rights-based and investment outlook.

 

Way Forward

  • Use technology to automate a large number of accessibility tests, and combine that with in-depth manual testing to provide comprehensive accessibility feedback to developers.
  • AI can help to further automate the accessibility testing process, and feedback from users with disabilities
    • It can analyze at scale to provide actionable insights to developers and companies.
  • There have been positive developments from the courts lately on the need for accessibility across sectors.
  • Securing a more disabled friendly digital ecosystem with conviction that, “everything digital must be accessible to everyon
    • This starts with incorporating the principles of accessibility and inclusive design into every digital offering, right from inception.
  • India needs to be truly accessible for all people with disabilities: Organizations, companies, civil society, the government and the courts must make this happen.

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 remains only a legal document without intense sensitisation of government functionaries and citizens regarding disability. Comment.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)