To bridge this gap, three neurodiverse individuals — Saravana Raj, Pranav and Prem — have built an accessible COVID-19 data website (hashhackcode.com/covid-19/) for India. The trio is students of HashhHackCode that provides inclusive tech education. Founder of HashHackCode, Manu Sekar, who helped the students with the project, tells us, “Equal access to information is an essential right and during a period like this, everyone should know what’s happening around them. Most of the COVID-related data in government websites and state media bulletin are in charts and graphs. Individuals with cognitive issues find it difficult to navigate. They are not able to access the information, unlike others. When Saravana Raj, Pranav and Prem realised these difficulties, they came up with an accessible COVID-19 data website. The trio took data from government websites and state media bulletin and created an accessible website where the tables can be easily read through the screen reader and it is also easy to navigate. Complex data is broken down into simple tables for easy understanding.”
This is the first time in the world an accessible COVID-19 data website is created by neurodiverse individuals, he adds. “All three are extremely talented and have a lot of potentials. For now, we are giving COVID-related data on six Indian states. The trio maintains the website and updates it daily. Their parents also supported them throughout the project. Before launching the website officially, we ran community testing and the response was overwhelming. We got recommendations to create websites with many other crucial data. Since many are accessing data through mobile phones, the team has automised the website for mobile devices as well,” adds Manu.
(Left to right) Prem, Pranav and Saravana Raj; website is accessible to individuals with visual impairment and special needs; (inset) Manu Sekar
Saravana Raj, one of the team members, was always interested in animation and coding. “I required someone to teach and guide me at my speed. Manu sir has always been a good motivator and also brought out the talents within me. Individuals with special needs find it difficult to check the websites to know about COVID-related data. It is tough for people like us to navigate those websites. That’s the main reason we decided to create a website that is accessible to all. We hope to add more data in the coming days and also wanted more individuals to make use of the website,” says Saravana Raj.