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Archive for May, 2010

Ever wondered how a person with a visual impairment uses a computer? Surf the web? Read a book or an article? I know many people who shy away from asking these questions. The important thing is to realise that there’s no harm in asking these questions. The real harm is in not bothering to find the answers to these questions. A request to our visually impaired readers: please pass this article on to all your sighted friends. And dear sighted readers, walk with me through this simple simulation of the experience of a visually impaired person.

The most popular, specialized software program used by people with visual impairments to consume electronic content – documents, web pages and other computer programs is a type of computer software known as a screen reader. The screen reader has two major functions – Navigation and Text-to-Speech (TTS).

A screen reader aids in navigation by guiding the user in moving from one page to the other, from one paragraph to the other and so on. It aids in TTS by converting electronic text to sound – basically it reads out text. The biggest stumbling block for screen reader software are programs and content that is difficult for navigation.
 
A large majority of computer programs and electronic content that are used by the visually impaired, are created by sighted people – programmers, content writers, editors etc. If you happen to fall into this category of very powerful people, and if you are unfamiliar with screen readers, I would definitely encourage you to try this little experiment. Now, if you don’t, you might still want to do it – because it can open your eyes a little bit into an unfamiliar world. All you need is a computer, working eyes and an old newspaper.

Here you go:

  1. Turn on your computer
  2. Browse to Google news or your favorite online haunt OR open a large word document
  3. Now get an old newspaper – take one full sheet and open it up
  4. Make a rectangular incision 3 inches long and half inch wide at the center of the paper
  5. With both hands, hold this newspaper against and in front of your computer display, so that you can see the screen through the rectangular hole
  6. Now start reading through the hole. Move the paper to the right to continue reading
  7. Try to jump to sections that you are interested in by moving the paper around
  8. Read the whole page
  9. Rinse and repeat with familiar and unfamiliar pages
  10. That’s it.

Hope you enjoyed the experience 🙂 .. Now we need some feedback from you:

  1. How easy was it to find something that you are looking to read?
  2. What would have made it easier to find what you were looking for?
  3. Is the experience different between familiar and unfamiliar pages?
  4. How would you change the design of your document/site/application after your experience of carrying out this experiment?
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Update as on May 1, 2010

 

After our last post on the Right to Read campaign on April 15th the copyright amendment was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 19th. The bad news is that the amendment still contained the same disastrous wording which would effectively prevent NGOs, educational institutions and persons with disabilities from converting reading material including textbooks and reference material into audio, digital formats and other formats that can be used by persons with disabilities to “read” such material. The extremely cumbersome, restrictive and lengthy licensing procedure proposed by the Government for conversion to these formats would mean that students with print disabilities would be deprived of their Right to Education which has now become a fundamental right.

Now for the good news. The BJP and the Left parties have gone on record  <!–[endif]–>that they will oppose the amendment unless the concerns of the visually impaired community are addressed. Members of the National Access Alliance including Sam Taraporevala, Kanchan Pamnani, S.K Rungta, Dipendra Manocha and Ketan Kothari met senior leaders of the BJP including Shri L.K. Advani, Shri Arun Jaitely and Smt. Sushma Swaraj who understood our concerns and were extremely sympathetic. Nirmita Narasimhan from the Centre for Internet and Society <!–[if !supportFootnotes]–> and I met Smt. Brinda Karat who was extremely sympathetic and supportive. Mrs. Karat spent close to an hour understanding the issues involved and fixed up a meeting for us with Shri. Oscar Fernandes, Congress MP and head of the standing committee that will examine the copyright amendment. She also informed us that she has spoken to Mr. Arun Jaitely on this issue and that they would jointly oppose the amendment. Shri Fernandes was also extremely sympathetic and supportive and assured us that we would get an opportunity to be heard when the matter came up for discussion. We also met two members of the standing committee Mr. Biju (CPI (M) MP from Kerala) and Mr. Penumalli Madhu (CPI (M) MP from Andhra Pradesh). Mr. Biju said he would definitely help when this matter comes up for discussion since he believed it is a just cause. Mr. Madhu was even more receptive to the idea and said he would circulate the note which we had given to all the members of the Standing Committee and also write a letter strongly recommending this
case to the Prime Minister and the Standing Committee.

Mr. Javed Abidi, India’s most famous and accomplished disability rights activist, took Nirmita and me to the Prime Minister’s Office where we met Joint Secretary Mr. Sanjay Mitra who promised to put our note to the Prime Minister.

 

Last but not least, over the last 2 weeks this initiative has got some great press coverage from socially conscious journalists from around the country. We now have to prepare for submitting evidence to the standing committee when the hearings start. We understand that this will happen within the next 3 months. Let us keep our fingers crossed. If you would like to contribute to this effort mail me at rahul.cherian@inclusiveplanet.com

Update as on May 1, 2010

 

After our last post on the Right to Read campaign on April 15th the copyright amendment was introduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 19th. The bad news is that the amendment still contained the same disastrous wording which would effectively prevent NGOs, educational institutions and persons with disabilities from converting reading material including textbooks and reference material into audio, digital formats and other formats that can be used by persons with disabilities to “read” such material. The extremely cumbersome, restrictive and lengthy licensing procedure proposed by the Government for conversion to these formats would mean that students with print disabilities would be deprived of their Right to Education which has now become a fundamental right.

Now for the good news. The BJP and the Left parties have gone on the record that they will oppose the amendment unless the concerns of the visually impaired community are addressed. Members of the National Access Alliance including Sam Taraporevala, Kanchan Pamnani, S.K Rungta, Dipendra Manocha and Ketan Kothari met senior leaders of the BJP including Shri L.K. Advani, Shri Arun Jaitely and Smt. Sushma Swaraj who understood our concerns and were extremely sympathetic.  Nirmita Narasimhan from the Centre for Internet and Society and I met Smt. Brinda Karat who extremely sympathetic and supportive. Mrs. Karat spent close to an hour understanding the issues involved and fixed up a meeting for us with Shri. Oscar Fernandes, Congress MP and head of the standing committee that will examine the copyright amendment. She also informed us that she has spoken to Mr. Arun Jaitely on this issue and that they would jointly oppose the amendment. Shri Fernandes was also extremely sympathetic and supportive and assured us that we would get an opportunity to be heard when the matter came up for discussion. We also met two members of the standing committee Mr. Biju (CPI (M) MP from Kerala) and Mr. Penumalli Madhu (CPI (M) MP from Andhra Pradesh). Mr. Biju said he would definitely help when this matter comes up for discussion since he believed it is a just cause. Mr. Madhu was even more receptive to the idea and said he would circulate the note which we had given to all the members of the Standing Committee and also write a letter strongly recommending this
case to the Prime Minister and the Standing Committee.

Mr. Javed Abidi, India’s most famous and accomplished disability rights activist, took Nirmita and me to the Prime Minister’s Office where we met Joint Secretary Mr. Sanjay Mitra who promised to put our note to the Prime Minister.

 

Last but not least, over the last 2 weeks this initiative got some great press coverage from socially conscious journalists from around the country. We now have to prepare for submitting evidence to the standing committee when the hearings start. We understand that this will happen within the next 3 months. Let us keep our fingers crossed. If you would like to contribute to this effort mail me at rahul.cherian@inclusiveplanet.com

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