The Right to Persons With Disabilities Act (RPWD Act) is passed in the parliament during 2016. The New law was replaced by The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
The new law provides a better clarity on digital accessibility, the organizations that are required to abide by the law and the accessibility guidelines to be followed. The 2 year period provided by the law for the service providers to meet the digital accessibility standards closes today i.e. June 15th, 2019. Unless the competent authorities extend the deadline, from June 16th, 2019 all the organizations, firms and service providers having digital presence need to make all their digital content including websites, mobile appps, documents, videos etc need to be accessible.
Why are we talking about the law now?
The duration provided for information and communication technology accessibility as part of public services accessibility as notified in the Act ends on June 15, 2019. Undoubtedly not even a hand full of websites in India are now compliant to the said rules in the RPWD Act.
Information & Communication Technology Accessibility in RPWD Act 2016
Chapter VIII section 46
- The service providers whether Government or private shall provide services in accordance with the rules on accessibility formulated by the Central Government under section 40 within a period of two years from the date of notification of such rules: Provided that the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Commissioner may grant extension of time for providing certain category of services in accordance with the said rules.
Chapter VIII Section 40
Section 40 of the RPWD Act says
- The Central Government shall, in consultation with the Chief Commissioner, formulate rules for persons with disabilities laying down the standards of accessibility for the physical environment, transportation, information and communications, including appropriate technologies and systems, and other facilities and services provided to the public in urban and rural areas.
Rules for information & communication Technologies in RPWD Act
Under Chapter VI, Section 15 and Section 16 specifically talk about the rules of ICT.
Chapter VI Section 15 Rules for Accessibility
(c) Information and Communication Technology-
(i) website standard as specified in the guidelines for Indian Government websites, as adopted by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances, Government of India;
(ii) documents to be placed on websites shall be in Electronic Publication (ePUB) or Optical Character Reader (OCR) based pdf format:
Provided that the standard of accessibility in respect of other services and facilities shall be specified by the Central Government within a period of six months from the date of notification of these rules.
(2) The respective Ministries and Departments shall ensure compliance of the standards of accessibility specified under this rule through the concerned domain regulators or otherwise.
Chapter VI Section 16. Review of Accessibility Standards.-
The Central Government shall review from time to time the accessibility standards notified based on the latest scientific knowledge and technology.
Below are few terms defined in Chapter I PRELIMINARY of the Act
(n) “information and communication technology” includes all services and innovations relating to information and communication, including telecom services, web based services, electronic and print services, digital and virtual services;
(x) “public facilities and services” includes all forms of delivery of services to the public at large, including housing, educational and vocational trainings, employment shopping or marketing, religious, cultural, leisure or recreational, medical, health and rehabilitation, banking, finance and insurance, communication, postal and information, access to justice, public utilities, transportation;
(ZE) “universal design” means the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialised design and shall apply to assistive devices including advanced technologies for particular group of persons with disabilities.
India is the home for a large number of people with disabilities. With the penetration of largest mobile use, digital accessibility became a necessity. If the government services, e-commerce websites, healthcare, banking, insurance hospitality and other sectors need to be reached to the widest possible citizens of the country, digital accessibility need to be taken serious. The law is in place, the rules are defined all that is required now is to properly use the law to have a citizen centric accessible digital world.
Note: By no means this article is a legal advice. Please consult the authorized firms or advocates to understand the act before taking any critical decisions.