In early April, Nirmita Narasimhan, Program Manager on accessibility at the Center for Internet and Society based in Bangalore, visited Sri Lanka at LIRNEasia’s invitation. Below is an excerpt from her reflections on the visit and her interactions with the Telecom Regulatory Commission, the ICT Agency and the Jinasena Trust: Why is there such a communication gap between persons with disabilities and the policy makers? Even in India, we come across projects where the government of India is spending precious funds developing technology which they feel is required for the blind, while the blind in fact are already using more advanced technology. For instance, there is a project of the government to develop a special browser for the blind, when the blind and visually impaired are already navigating the internet using screen readers like Jaws and NVDA. My meetings with the regulator and other agencies confirmed for me that persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka and India are facing similar problems.
I recently learned that a colleague, John Ure, who has been active in telecom reforms efforts in Hong Kong for many years, has been appointed to head the Asian Internet Coalition. Appears they have been quite active in East and South East Asia, with emphasis on privacy and intellectual property issues. I hope they will link up with our friends at the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore and become active in South Asia as well.
There wasn’t much of a problem with the disabled back in the old days. They were kept behind closed doors, so there was not much demand for accessibility in public places and such. Things have changed, for the good. Now, in the developed world, every part of a building must be accessible by wheelchair. Pedestrian crossing make a noise in addition to just the color signal.