From DNIS: M.S.J.E. continues to drag its feet on web access

News Network: More than half a year has passed by since the Ministry of Information Technology revised the web access guidelines mandating all websites in public domain to be W.C.A.G. 2.0 compliant. But Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (M.S.J.E.), the nodal ministry for disability and the national institutes and bodies under it are seemingly competing against each other to be the last to wake up to web accessibility!  D.N.I.S. has been following this story for months now. Despite, several letters and phone calls, only the National Trust and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had found it necessary to reply!  Dr. Vinod Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, M.S.J.E. told D.N.I.S. that the new, W.C.A.G. 2.0 compliant website of the Ministry is ready and would be unveiled anytime soon. According to sources, the last minute security tests are being conducted now. It was earlier scheduled to be launched in mid September. Poonam Natarajan, Chairperson, National Trust said that their W.C.A.G. 2.0 compliant website was to be released in mid September as well. However, when contacted a month later, National Trust said that they have been in touch with N.I.C. and hopefully the website would be fully accessible by October end.

The Rehabilitation Council of India, on the other hand, washed its hands off the issue by asking Media Lab Asia to respond to D.N.I.S. That was in the first week of September. A month and a half later, neither S.N. Goswami, Managing Director and CEO, Media Lab Asia nor Dr. J.P. Singh, Member Secretary, R.C.I. found the time to either come on the phone or reply to E-mails and letters.  But the winner obviously is the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped and a sure shot entry into Ripley’s Believe it or Not! The institute meant for people with visual impairment, who obviously will benefit the most from accessible websites, is not W.C.A.G. 2.0 compliant!

“We have been trying to get our website W.C.A.G. 2.0 compliant for the last 2 years now. But there are no experts on web accessibility in the country and that is why we have not been able to do so,” said Anuradha Mohit, Director, N.I.V.H. A statement that is extremely hard to believe! After all, a good number of government websites are on the verge of becoming W.C.A.G. 2.0 compliant. How come they did not have any difficulty in finding ‘experts’?  Dr. Arbind Prasad, Joint Secretary, M.S.J.E. had earlier directed all national institutes under M.S.J.E. to get their websites W.C.A.G. 2.0 compliant. According to sources, the Ministry is now tightening its reins. However, while most national institutes are scurrying to get their act together, N.I.V.H. apparently is the only one which has not responded. “We do not have to respond, we only have to act,” said Mohit when asked. “And we have been working on it for quite some time,” she added. And how many more months or perhaps years is it going to take to ‘act’? Well, your guess is as good as ours!

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