Persons with disabilities (PwDs) face huge challenges in their day-to-day life. They are often subjected to discrimination. Mostly the infrastructure and facilities are not suitable for their use. National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC), set up by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, works for the welfare of the PwDs. In order to make technology accessible, the Corporation has developed disabled friendly websites and provides facility to every category of PwDs by accepting web-based online scholarship application, education loan, application from skill training etc.
Developing website for disabled is very challenging. There are different types of disabilities. Some people can’t see, while some can’t hear, some others can’t move—these different categories of disabilities present different challenges. Then there are language barriers. Making a website accessible can be simple or complex, depending on many factors such as the type of content, the size and complexity of the site and the development tools and environment.
Fixing inaccessible websites can require significant effort, especially sites that were not originally “coded” properly with standard XHTML markup and sites with certain types of content such as multimedia.
Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can use the Web. More specifically, Web accessibility means that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the Web and that they can contribute to it. Web accessibility also benefits others, including older people with changing abilities due to aging. Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological disabilities. The document “How People with Disabilities Use the Web” describes how different disabilities affect Web use and includes scenarios of people with disabilities using the Web.
The system is accessible by all types of PwDs—Orthopedically, Visually and Hearing Handicapped. Key features of the website are:
- Visually disabled access the website with the help of screen reader.
- Meets level AA of WCAG 2.0 guidelines.
- Hearing impaired users can receive information via sight.
- Low vision users can receive information with alternative formatting.
- Color deficient users can receive information without use of color.
- Text alternatives are provided for any non-text content so that it can be changed into other forms people need, such as large print, speech, symbols or simpler language.
- It is available in English, Hindi and other languages (Bengali, Guajarati, Urdu, Tamil and Telugu).
The number of applicants seeking scholarships, loan and other facilities have gone up significantly with the introduction of disabled friendly website. In the financial year 2014-15, the Corporation received 17,215 online applications from the PwDs for the scholarship under Trust Fund and National Fund. Out of these, 2,276 scholarships were given under Trust Fund and 517 under the National Fund. The total number of applications rose by 56 per cent in 2014-15 when compared with the previous year. In 2013-14, the total number of online application was 11,045. This included 7,547 for Trust Fund and 3,498 for National Fund scholarships.
The web application has also made the system transparent and hassle free. In the old system wrong information was provided that used to create problems and at times lead to rejections. Chances of mistakes are minimal in the new system.