New Delhi, 18th December 2023: In a significant stride towards fostering an inclusive digital ecosystem, the 2nd edition of the ‘Inclusive India – Digital First’ conference on Tuesday concluded, marking a pivotal moment in India’s journey towards digital accessibility. The event brought together the luminaries of the Indian IT industry, focusing on the imperative integration of people with disabilities into the digital framework.
The summit aims to include 15% of the world’s population by implementing digital accessibility and making web and mobile accessible to people with disabilities.
On the occasion, Shri Rajesh Aggarwal, Secretary, DEPWD, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India said, “There are numerous schemes, and we are actively promoting barrier-free campaigns for accessibility. We’re addressing physical accessibility by incorporating ramps for wheelchairs, lifts, accessible buses, and designing disability-friendly toilets at railway stations.
Over the past decade, the digital aspect has gained significance for people with disabilities. “For instance, hotels must be booked online, requiring websites to be accessible. Similarly, IRCTC websites are crucial for obtaining online tickets. Can a blind person use Ola and Uber apps?” questioned Aggarwal.
Aggarwal continued, emphasizing the need for apps to be user-friendly for those without hands and stressing the importance of making banking apps accessible to people with disabilities. “The law mandates accessibility, with 13 ministries issuing notifications. The sports ministry recently emphasized making stadiums disabled-friendly,” Aggarwal added.
Highlighting the community’s role, Aggarwal stressed collective efforts with corporations and the government to address problems. He emphasized the need for inclusive education, stating, ‘Availability of braille for the blind is crucial, and text-to-speech is essential for the deaf.’
Aggarwal concluded by stating that education remains one of the significant challenges.”
Shilpi Kapoor, CEO of BarrierBreak, set the tone of the summit with a compelling vision, asserting, “The mission of ‘Inclusive – India: Digital First’ is to create a vibrant community focused on sharing insights and strategies for digital accessibility.
At BarrierBreak, we’re committed to guiding our global clients in embedding accessibility into their digital frameworks.”
The conference saw the participation of leading technology and financial organizations, including Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, Wipro, HSBC, Accenture, TCS, Union Bank of India, State Street, and Atos. These companies presented their initiatives and progress in making their products and services more accessible to people with disabilities.
From the banking sector, HSBC highlighted its commitment to financial inclusion. “Ensuring that our banking and financial services are accessible to all, including the 15% of India’s population with disabilities, is a priority for us at HSBC,” said a spokesperson from the bank.
NCPEDP delegate focused on the importance of international standards in digital accessibility, remarking, “Embracing the Web Content Accessibility Guideline 2.2 – Level AA standards is not just about compliance for companies; it’s about responsibility towards creating an inclusive digital world.”
The conference featured in-depth discussions on the latest version of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and explored how artificial intelligence can intersect with disability to promote greater independence.
In her closing remarks, Kapoor highlighted the urgency of the situation, “With a mere fraction of India’s digital space being accessible to people with disabilities, it’s imperative to look at global models of digital accessibility. We envision a future where ‘Made in India’ tech products are synonymous with accessibility and inclusivity.”
The ‘Inclusive – India: Digital First’ summit not only served as an educational platform but also as a clarion call for collective action, urging all stakeholders in India’s digital development to prioritize accessibility and inclusivity.
BarrierBreak is the leader in offshore Digital Accessibility testing and consulting based in India, founded in the year 2004 with a strong belief that technology can empower people with disabilities and the elderly to live independently. https://www.barrierbreak.com