New Delhi, Jan 13 (UNI) Net surfing in the age of Information Technology may be like second skin for most people but the world is not just a click away for the disabled in India, with big companies like Infosys and Wipro failing to make the grade, according to a survey.
Fifteen top Indian companies, listed on the NASDAQ and the NYSE and boasting of a global presence, were found guilty of shutting the gates of the ''Information Highway'' on the visually impaired population, according to the Barrierbreak survey of websites of the companies.
The survey report was conducted on the sites of the HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Infosys Technologies, Patni Computer Systems, Wipro Technologies, Satyam Computer Services, MTNL, VSNL, Sify, WNS, Genpact, Dr Reddy's, Sterlite Industries, Tata Motors and Rediff.
''None of the companies met even the basic accessibility standards,'' said Javed Abidi, Director National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Diabled People.
A combination of both automated and manual tests were conducted on people with different types of disabilities such as visual impairment, mobility impairment, learning impairment.
The survey showed that the disabled found it difficult to access the web pages of the 15 companies. ''Automated tests revealed that these pages failed to comply with minimum level of web accessibility standards such as WCAG 1.0. In addition, the tested web pages lacked valid HTML and CSS markups.'' Implementation of guidelines and standards such as Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 1.0, enable companies to make websites accessible to all but neither the firms nor the government seem to be interested in enforcing them, he regretted.
''The ground reality is that in India, disability is still a welfare issue and token gestures like releasing a Braille stamp are publicised.'' ''Ninety-nine per cent of the websites in India are completely inaccessible to people with visual impairments. About ten percent of the world's population is disabled but the companies are not considering them while designing their websites.'' The discourse on ''accessibility'' for disabled people has been limited by and large to physical access, i.e. ramps, wheelchair friendly toilets or accessibility in buses, railways or aircraft, he said. ''We want to expand the scope of this debate on 'access' by focussing very specifically on access to knowledge and information and of course, access to technology.'' It is essential that these companies meet the basic levels of accessibility standards, especially when India has recently ratified the UN convention on Rights of People with Disabilities, Mr Abidi added.
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