While the conversation around accessibility of public buildings and transport hubs is gaining importance, digital accessibility is relegated to the backseat. To change this, individuals are working towards adding plug-ins and other features to make websites and information, accessible to all.
Sathasivam Kannupayan, a person with disability, started working on his website, www. enable.in , an accessible online portal, after having trouble with access to information. “When I came to Chennai for my post-graduate study, I met with several persons with disability, who felt that they didn’t have access to information — be it welfare measures or any other means of knowledge. So, we decided to come up with a website, which will be accessible to all,” he said, adding that they spent three years on meeting persons with disability and ascertaining their needs.
Delving into the features of the website, Sathasivam added, “We have gathered all kinds of information in a single portal. We have three colour options — so persons with colour blindness can choose a colour, with which they can access the website. We are using schema.org, which has the latest technology to enable easier access. We also have screen reader software for visually impaired users.”
Sathasivam pointed out that he wanted to provide job opportunities. “We are taking up projects to make public and private websites accessible to persons with disability. This is one of the ways for us to survive,” he said.
Prem Nawaz Khan Maraikayar, a front end engineer, was inspired by his colleague, Victor Tsaran, a visually challenged person. “When I first wrote the code, I thought it was the best. But Victor pointed out that it wasn’t accessible, as it should work with his screen reader software. That was when I decided to look at the accessibility of the digital space,” said this engineer, who has developed open source projects like Bootstrap Plugin and am Charts Plugins.
Currently working with PayPal, Prem explained one of the many accessibility projects he helped develop. “I created SkipTo, a software which will install a select box on the address bar featuring important links to a website. This will help persons who cannot use the mouse easily to access the link they want with minimal tapping of the keyboard,” he explained, adding that in the performance vs accessibility debate, he chose the latter.
Kannupayan and Maraikayar along with Dr Sujatha Srinivasan were the winners from the city of the NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Awards recently.
OPENING THE DIGITAL WORLD TO THE DISABLED
Dr Sujatha Srinivasan established the Rehabilitation Research and Device Developments (R2D2) lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at IIT Madras. “We work on the development of assistive devices for people with locomotive difficulty. We have developed several prototypes of devices and are currently working on commercialising the products. One of the devices is a standing wheelchair. Our industry partner is the Welcome Trust in the UK and we are working on making it commercial. Apart from this, we have developed many prosthetics and physical devices, like walking assist devices, hybrid manual-electric wheelchair and improved orthotic knee joints among others. We work with several hospitals, NGOs and support groups, which help us test the devices and give us the requirements,” said this academician.