This is a presentation I have made at a panel discussion held on 19th December, 2016 at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.
Thank you for having me here. Good to see many of my old friends!
Firstly, let’s celebrate the passage of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill; although it’s not very perfect bill, I’m hopeful, with all of our collective efforts, India will be better than before; there are plenty of opportunities that we can work with. While I’m not so happy that bill does not talk about equal opportunities for education in private sector school and few such things, I’m happy that this bill has included Accessibility and mostly in line with The UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Let’s hope for good implementation and see India becomes more inclusive.
So for next about 10015 minutes, we will be discussing about how Non-profits, corporates and education sector can do to promote digital accessibility. I limit my topic and discussion to Digital Accessibility because I have some amount of knowledge in this area and I absolutely not fit to talk about infrastructure accessibility etc.,
What Corporate can do?
Mindset Firstly we need to set our mindset; as one of my friends Subramanyan Murali says “Fixing the mindset is important”; by having mindset to build accessible products will ensure us that our products will be almost inclusive. Because, when we have mindset, we start thinking about diverse users and then thinking goes towards understanding standards etc.,
Have Accessibility as part of product road map and plan We do not prioritize things unless it is in our plan / road map. Having it as part of product planning will enable us to allocate required time.Often we hear that people what they did not have time to address accessibility, but do they have in their agenda? I keep repeating this in almost every presentation of mine that (not only me, any accessibility advocate) – the early consider accessibility, the better for you. It will be less expensive, can be achieved with less effort if accessibility is considered right at the planning stage.
Have PM led accessibility Because PM is the one who would have full visibility to timelines, product planning cycle etc., He or she would be able to fit in required amount of time to ensure product is accessible. Usually PMs are powerful and can made decisions; so their intervention is critical. Often we hear from developers that I’m OK to make it accessible, but my PM does not give me enough time; while the truth is why not did he or she written code that is accessible? So if PMs could own accessibility, they will have opportunity to discuss in regular meetings.
Have Strategy One needs to have a strategy how to address accessibility for legacy, current and future products. It’s not easy to make all legacy products accessible; but a plan and strategy could help to some extent. I’ll be doing a full talk on this at CSUN Conference in 2017; but will be happy to discuss with anyone who are interested in this topic.
Enable Developers and QA Ensure right training is provided for developers and QA. It’s important teams have knowledge about accessibility standards and techniques to build accessible products. They should also know that accessibility is not a rocket science and it’s more about writing semantic code and using the right techniques.
Raise Awareness Whether we like it or not, still there is not really enough awareness about accessibility in the industry. If you believe in accessibility, talk about it within your company and outside. Raise awareness, let people know the impact of accessibility, address myths that people have about accessibility.
What Non-profits can do?
Sensitize community: You could be the voice for many people that serve. Put in efforts to sensitize community about the needs of your people; may it be people with disabilities, elderly etc., In fact, Non profits can create a lot more impact than corporate organizations. But do it in right way. Specially when you are talking about accessibility, think of cross users and not only the section of people that you deal with.
Review and reach out: Review websites / apps as per accessibility standards and share feedback with respective product owners and then follow-up with them. Make it as your project. This is what my colleague Rakesh and I do on our websites.
Last step: Legal approach: After all of your social efforts, if nothing works out, work with courts to approach product owners in legal way. But all of the legal steps should be as a last option. Do not ever start with legal approach.
What education sector can do?
Education sector plays a critical role. Often when I see an inaccessible application, I do not blame developer, but blame the institution who tought them how to code. Most of the institutions do not teach concepts of usability, standards and accessibility. So if you are an education institution, include usability, standards and accessibility as part of your curriculum. Build ability to think from cross user prospective.
Thank you all!