The Indian Government passed the Disability Act in 1995, which among other things mandates that public information should also be provided in a disabled-friendly format to those Indian citizens who might have a need for it. With increasing proliferation of the Internet, electronic accessibility of information has become extremely crucial. In February this year, the government finally ensured that 50 of its websites shall be made disabled-friendly in order to make accessibility easy.
The guidelines to ensure that a website is disabled-friendly is not a long list. Just a few important factors need to be ensured, like:
- Including the ‘ALT’ attribute for all images so that visitors who have problem viewing the image can easily listen to the ALT text using speech synthesizers
- Ability to know where the link is pointed at, without having to read the surrounding text
- Use of a consistent style to identify hyperlinks which is not solely based on color
- Use of frames to be avoided
- Provide alternatives for multimedia content
- All other common-sensical styling that would enable easier access of information
And news is in, that the Government is yet to conform to these guidelines as well as the other that have been mandated by the World Wide Web Consortium. The question is not about why it has not happened since February, which is pretty unfair because it has been only six months since then (pun intended), but about the need for a defining authority like the IT Ministry to ratify the design of Government websites when they are launched.
India has been with the W3C since its inception in 1994 and the Web Accessibility Initiative for the disabled was launched in 1997, much before the Government launched several of its websites. I wouldn’t dismiss the existence of an authority that is supposed to ratify website designs, but as it stands, it only points to a slow and lackadaisical way in which the issues have been handled.
But things have seemingly started to move in the right direction. The Government has recently issued a draft national policy for electronic accessibility. That’s something which is better late than never!