Appeal for Web Accessibility from the CIS

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Rahul Gonsalves

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Oct 30, 2008, 2:19:00 AM10/30/08
to National Policy on E-Accessibility
Dear Friends,

The internet has brought with it a fresh breath of life and energy
into the lives of disabled persons throughout the world. More than
others, it has enabled and liberated them in the most complete sense
of the words and succeeded in elevating levels of independence,
competence and confidence. Like any other technology however this
comes with its bundle of problems. Thankfully for us, a large part of
this can be solved by merely setting some minimum standards in place
at no extra cost or effort.

For any technology to be completely useful, it has to fall into the
criteria of – utility, usability, affordability, acceptance and
accessibility. Unfortunately, while the internet can solve most of the
access to information challenges faced by disabled persons, the
hurdles in the form of navigation or comprehension problems pose as
severe barriers to placing complete reliance on it as a tool for
managing one’s work and academic pursuits for visually and print
disabled persons. To help better understand the issue, given below are
some features which are quite problematic for persons with visual and
reading disabilities. They are accompanied by some simple solutions
which can be easily incorporated by web page creators right from the
very beginning.

Web pages often contain images and graphics which cannot be discerned
by screen readers- text descriptions and explanations can be provided
for these; creation of links to skip to content can provide a huge
relief for persons using screen readers from listening to a whole lot
of useless or confusing content; there should be key board
alternatives for every function which has to be executed with a mouse;
links without references such as “click here” or links without any
specific destination should be avoided; creators of web pages should
not rely upon colours to convey meanings; since screen readers read
content as it is in the code, web page creators should ensure that
content is read correctly in the page as well as in the code.

By adherence to web accessibility standards, these problems can be
avoided. A lot of countries in the world like USA, UK, Canada,
Australia and many more have enacted legislations to make it mandatory
for creators of web pages to follow the minimum standards for web page
accessibility adopted by those countries. India has ratified the UN
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in October 2007.
Unfortunately however, no move has been made till date to adopt or
make mandatory web accessibility guidelines in our country.
Consequently, a lot of government and private web sites are in
accessible for persons with disabilities, defeating the very purpose
of ICT for development.

Considering these factors, we think it is high time that we make a
concerted effort towards enabling a more inclusive on line environment
for all. Adopting a web accessibility standard does not merely make
the web more accessible to disabled persons, it makes navigation and
operation easier for everyone. The W3C has come out with a web
accessibility standard called the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility
Guidelines) which has been adopted by many countries. This makes the
tasks of the countries easier in the sense that they have already a
ready framework and guidelines available to work with.

We solicit your active support and presence in this movement for
enabling mandatory adherence to web accessibility standards in India.
You are invited to join the google group for a national policy for E
Access at http://groups.google.com/group/e-access.We are planning to
have a meeting of all interested parties and organizations who are
committed to supporting this cause on the date and venue given below.
We request you to attend along with other supporters.

(on behalf of)
Nirmita Narasimhan

Date: 7th Nov, 2008 (Friday)

Time: 11:00 am
Venue- CIS office
Centre for Internet and Society
No. D2, 3rd Floor, Sheriff Chambers
14, Cunningham Road, Bangalore - 560 052
P: +91 80 4092 6283

Mustafa

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Dec 13, 2008, 9:48:32 AM12/13/08
to National Policy on E-Accessibility
At the cost of sounding like a cynic:

How many people in India use screen readers?
Have there been any case-studies?
Which institutions/universities in India have web accessibility as
part of their curriculum?
Is their an Indian Task-Force that is working solely on these issues?
If yes, then how do other developers get involved?

It is interesting to have a look at the websites of some important
universities and colleges. I'm not even talking about the government
ones. Let alone accessibility, usability is a big-issue for them.

Also as we know, web accessibility is helpful not just to people with
disabilities, but:

- Those who are old,
- use old or slow devices or computers,
- have low frequency or literacy, and
- are relatively unfamiliar with using web.

The last one is a biggie. I believe 80-90% of Indians belong to that
category. Yes, social networking has been big in India, however, most
of them browse the web like a "callow youth of seventeen". They just
don't know what they are doing and the web is over-whelming and google
is their savior(they believe). I say this after I did a small study
with my parents and sister. More on that after I receive a reply...

Coming back, what I wanted to say is that Indian people are not aware
of their rights and the power of their rejection. They are too used to
the crap out there and accept what comes their way. They think
browsing is for geeks and it has a lot to do with the very poor IA of
most of the websites.

I would love to see the adoption of web-accessibility standards in
India, however, are there that many developers out there who
understand these issues? What about the institutions and universities?
The web studios involved? The adoption of web standards in itself is a
matter of concern. Do we have a decentralized group of people working
on these issues?

Is CIS an International Organization?

Also, the theory of "Valid XHTML" which I see on most of the so called
web studios' wesites in India, who claim to follow standards is just
the icing on "the cake of irritation". The advocay ->http://hixie.ch/
advocacy/xhtml

Do we have a mailing list or an IRC channel where young Indian web-
developers can meet, share knowledge and get involved in making the
web better?

I believe cynicism disappears with hope :)

Regards and respect,

- Mustafa Quilon

Rahul Gonsalves

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Dec 14, 2008, 9:33:09 AM12/14/08
to e-ac...@googlegroups.com
Hi Mustafa,

On 13-Dec-08, at 8:18 PM, Mustafa wrote:

> How many people in India use screen readers?
> Have there been any case-studies?
> Which institutions/universities in India have web accessibility as
> part of their curriculum?

These are important questions from a research perspective; sadly I
have no answers as to the number of people who use a screen reader or
whether there have been any India-specific studies. I also feel that
these questions are somewhat peripheral to the adoption of a policy on
electronic accessibility - they are interesting, but ultimately
irrelevant.

> Is their an Indian Task-Force that is working solely on these issues?
> If yes, then how do other developers get involved?

This very group is working on issues of accessibility - we're trying
to ensure that a national policy on electronic accessibility becomes a
reality. Concurrently, we're also trying to ensure that designers and
developers are made aware of the need to build accessible, inclusive
online environments.

This group is completely open to all - and we're actively looking for
new members to help us out with the various things that need to be
done - work on the accessibility policy, educating designers and
developers, sensitising a larger audience to the need for
accessibility and so on.

Currently, the UN Solutions Exchange has agreed to take up this issue
on a priority basis and we will be working directly with their ICT team.

> I would love to see the adoption of web-accessibility standards in
> India, however, are there that many developers out there who
> understand these issues? What about the institutions and universities?
> The web studios involved?

I suspect that if accessibility standards become mandatory, more and
more designers/developers will start paying attention. Of course, we
will provide links to learning resources - Opera's Web Standards
Curriculum [1] is an excellent starting point.

> Is CIS an International Organization?

I'm not sure I understand your question - the Centre for Internet and
Society is a society registered in India under the Karnataka Societies
Act.

http://cis-india.org/about-us/people/members

> Do we have a mailing list or an IRC channel where young Indian web-
> developers can meet, share knowledge and get involved in making the
> web better?

I don't know of an India-specific list, but I have benefited from
being part of the following:

Cascading Style Sheets Discuss
http://www.css-discuss.org/

Web-AIM (Accessibility in Mind)
http://list.webaim.org/

The WebDesign List
http://webdesign-L.com/

The Web Standards Group
http://webstandardsgroup.org/mail/guidelines.cfm

The Digital Divide
http://digitaldivide.net/

> I believe cynicism disappears with hope :)
>
> Regards and respect,
>
> - Mustafa Quilon

Best,
- Rahul.

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