TRAI seeks better accessibility for persons with disabilities

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has turned the spotlight on one of India’s ignored sections of the society–persons with disabilities (PwD). The regulator is prodding companies to make information and communication technology more accessible to differently abled people. It notes that such people are unable to use the services either because they lack the necessary accessibility features or are incompatible for usage by them.

The TRAI has released a consultation paper seeking the broadcast sector’s views on identifying and eradicating areas that are pain points for them and where policies are required to be frame so that PwDs don’t feel discriminated. Aids and assistive devices have been made for them but a similar change in services and content is yet to take place. The TRAI states that the law must also consider the various segments within PwDs.

From 2.13 per cent of the population in 2001, the number of PwDs in India grew to 2.21 per cent, which is 2.68 crore of the total. The consultation paper points out that though set-top boxes (STBs) have been made accessible to them, there is a lack of content that can justify its usage. Certain additions need to be made for the visually impaired such that they can access STBs via audio. The functions they need to access without vision include channel/programme selection, display of programme information, setup options, closed captioning control and display options, video description control, current configuration information, playback controls, and input source selection.

Similarly, people with visual impairment cannot see screens and find it difficult to navigate the keypad and menu of a TV remote. Buttons on a remote are also not designed while keeping in mind people who are unable to use their limbs or flex their fingers. Special measures, such as giving captions for those who can’t hear and audio descriptions for the blind, need to be taken.

One section of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 states that government and local authorities must work to ensure that those with hearing impairment can enjoy TV content via subtitles or sign language. The Accessible India campaign aims to ensure that at least 25 per cent of TV shows on government channels are suited for PwDs.

The TRAI suggests actions such as creating well-designed remote controls with legible buttons, a wireless connection between a television and the viewer’s hearing aid as ways to help them.

India’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) laws have a provision to help PwDs. Broadcast companies that are required to undertake CSR have a fine way to spend the minimum requirement of at least 2 per cent of the average net profits in the immediate three preceding financial years. This can include developing applications, devices and services for their benefit.

The US FCC mandates that devices used for watching TV must be accessible to PwDs and a similar case is for the UK as well.

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