TRAI releases Consultation Paper on Making ICT Accessible for Persons with Disabilities

Asia-Pacific, ICT, December 21 2017

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper on “Making ICT Accessible for Persons with Disabilities”

Accessibility icon in place of keyboard keyOver the last two decades, telecommunication and broadcasting services  have become ubiquitous and now reach out to the most remote and underserved  areas empowering millions of people. Telecommunication services also provide the basic underlying infrastructure for providing various services of the economy like banking, education, healthcare and public services etc. Information and communications technology (ICT) is transforming the way agriculture, trade, commerce and transportation is done and future advances in ICTs including mobile broadband, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics and artificial intelligence. 3-D printing will provide the tools for additional, unprecedented advances in healthcare, education, energy services, agriculture and environmental monitoring and protect ion.

However, Persons with disability (PwDs) are often not able to access these ICT services on account of lack of necessary accessibility features or unaffordable prices of the equipment or due to unavailability of required services to make them compatible for use by such persons. Since access to telecommunication and broadcasting services has become an essential component of economic growth and upliftment of people, it is important that necessary ste ps·-are taken to ensure that PwDs are able to access these services and the barriers that hinder this access are identified and removed. Also, for having an inclusive society in consonance with the basic principles of equality, freedom, justice and dignity of all enshrined in our constitution, it is important that benefits of technological advancement are made available to such persons .

In India the percentage of persons with disabilities to the total population grew from 2.1 3% in 2001 to 2.21% in 2011 with 2.68 crore persons with disabilities in the country. Program such as  “Digital  India” aiming to bring ICTs to the doorstep of every citizen would be fully realized only when this segment of our population is also benefitted from the digital transformation happening in the country.

Though governments, development partners, civil society and  sector  experts  are working together to ensure protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and in  ICT field also there have been developments in aids and assistive  devices  and  services  for  persons with disabilities,  corresponding changes in services or content is yet to come  in  the  country  implying  thereby  that  the benefits of ICT development have not reached fully to  persons with disabilities.  The  Authority is therefore  of the view that additional policy interventions need to be  explored  and  implemented  to address the unique challenges faced by persons with disabilities.

Keeping the above in view, the Authority has suo-motu initiated this consultation paper with the objective to identify key areas where policy interventions are needed to understand the barriers being faced by persons with disabilities in accessing the telecom and broadcasting services so that affirmative actions at policy level in the form of recommendations to the Government or formulation of regulation or advisory to equipment/service providers or a combination of these can be taken.

Written comments/inputs on the issues raised in the consultation paper are invited from the stakeholders by 22.01.2018 and counter comments by 05.02.2018.

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