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. A severe challenge for persons with disabilities is to make policy makers and developers aware of their needs and new developments in technology so that appropriate initiatives are taken which are low cost, available in local languages, and scalable. Increasingly it seems important to involve the private sector as well in accessibility initiatives to increase variety, competition and solutions.
I can’t help thinking that a major challenge for everyone in Sri Lanka is how to relate to law makers who are vision challenged and policy makers who are hearing impaired.