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Archive for the ‘Inclusive Planet Updates’ Category

We are currently trying to enrich the user experience when it comes to accessing content on inclusiveplanet.com. We realized that there is a lot of free content available on the net, but not all websites are accessible. So over the next couple of months we intend to get permission from individuals and organisations, who have already put up their content on the net. Our initiative will serve two purposes:-

1) Make the content easily accessible to the blind at one single place

2)Provide our members with a wider choice of rich content. This would especially help those who have just learnt computers, and aren’t aware of the plethora of reading options available on the net.

We are getting in touch with a range of content providers across different categories like news, religion, entertainment, education and so on. We are looking at getting their permission to put the content on our website so that it can be easily accessed by the blind. For this initiative, we intend to use the channels on Inclusiveplanet.com. Channels have the ability to import RSS feeds as well, so it immediately makes sharing of content possible. The channel would have the name of the content provider, and content will be attributed to them. The RSS feeds will pull in content from the content provider’s website to the inclusiveplanet.com channel, and thus make it “accessible” for the blind.

You can get involved in this initiative in the following ways:-

a) If you are a content provider, and would love to see your content on inclusiveplanet.com, then do get in touch with us.

b) If you are interested in volunteering, you can take up projects to aggregate different types of content onto Inclusive Planet

Do write to us at contact@inclusiveplanet.com. We look forward to hearing from you.

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We are glad to tell you that Inclusive Planet has been accredited as an observer to the WIPO – World Intellectual Property Organization.

Rahul Cherian is present at the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights happening at the moment in Switzerland.

Following is the statement of Inclusive Planet, India on the matter of the Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled, proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico  and Paraguay.

June 21, 2010

Mr. Chairman, distinguished delegates and ladies and gentlemen , I thank the WIPO Secretariat for processing our accreditation to the WIPO as an observer and the decision of this Committee to accredit my organization. I represent Inclusive Planet Foundation, a non profit organisation based in India, focusing on policy reform in the disability space as a part of which we have been campaigning in India for appropriate amendments to Indian copyright law to create exceptions and limitations to enable persons with disabilities to access material in alternate formats. Our sister organisation, a for profit organization runs Inclusivelanet.com, one of the fastest growing social networks for persons with visual impairment, with users from 80 countries. Inclusive Planet’s Services division provides technology solutions and consultancy to organisations related to web and content accessibility.

Mr. Chairman, Inclusive Planet Foundation believes that the Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay is essential to improve the lives of the millions of persons with disabilities in India and we are extremely supportive of the Treaty for the following reasons:

1. Firstly, We believe that in India and other developing countries where large funding for conversion and distribution is not available, and where there are no institutional intermediaries with the kind of reach, infrastructure and financial support as the intermediaries in the US and Europe, all stakeholders including NGOs, educational institutions, libraries, persons with disabilities , parents and volunteers must be allowed to convert and distribute and import and export material in accessible formats. The Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay allows for this. Any proposal which limits these activities only to intermediaries that have the support of rightholders will not be of any great benefit to India or other developing countries.

2. Secondly, We believe it is important that persons with hearing impairment and persons with other disabilities who need alternate formats must not be discriminated against and be left behind. The Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay covers not only persons with print disabilities but also persons with other disabilities who require alternate formats. Other proposals in the table have also good definitions of beneficiaries. We believe that any proposal which extends only to persons with print disabilities will be unjust.

3. Thirdly, We believe that non-commercial conversion and distribution should not require payment to rights holders keeping in mind the cost and effort taken in such conversion and distribution. We also believe that rights holders must be compensated for commercial conversion and distribution. The Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay provides for these two options. We believe that this system will incentivize rights holders to convert and sell material in accessible formats at affordable prices, which we believe is the only long term solution to solving the book famine.

4. Lastly, We believe that for-profit entities who wish to undertake conversion on a not-for-profit basis must be permitted to do so. It has been our experience in India that large corporations wish to convert material into accessible formats as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives on a non-commercial basis. This must be encouraged. The Treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay provides for this. We believe that any proposal that does not recognize the roles that can be played by for-profit entities is limited and will not contribute to long term solutions.

In short Mr. Chairman, the ground realities in India and other developing countries are completely different from those in the United States and in Europe. In India and other developing countries, people with disabilities need all the help we can get, from all parties willing to help. Any proposal that recognizes only intermediaries as part of the solution will be of extremely limited impact in India. We believe that the Treaty for the Blind, Visually Impaired and other Reading Disabled, proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay is THE proposal which addresses the needs of persons with disabilities in developing countries. We urge member states to support the treaty proposed by Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay if any meaningful change is to be made to the lives of millions of persons with disabilities around the world and especially in developing countries including India.

To read more about the other treaties, see Comparison of the four proposals on disabilities at WIPO SCCR.

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For the technology practitioner who works in the area of getting her solutions to work well for a diverse audience, there are a few related but often ambiguous terms that float around. Accessibility, usability, design …

For those of us who are particularly concerned about ensuring that web applications fit the needs of an audience with different faculties, there are a set of standards that are laid out that presumably will tell us how to do this. The question often comes up – is it worth the effort following standards like the W3C WCAG standard? There is a profusion of articles on the web that detail how standards compliance can be achieved and there are organizations who will help you, the web asset owner, get to standards compliance. What is often not that clear is the question of – what will WCAG compliance do for my users? How will my web asset benefit from this exercise? Does WCAG compliance mean that ALL users can use my web site ‘equitably’?

Focusing on the WCAG standard as an example, the standards body has stated that the goal of defining “how to make Web content more accessible to people with disabilities”. The standards body has decided, I believe consciously, to not precisely define accessibility. Also note the comparative term “more accessible” is chosen instead of a more absolute or superlative term. There is an air of tentativeness, which again, I would think, is a conscious choice.

There are a few more factors to consider:

  1. Standards, in its final form often represent less than the state of the art in technology due to the long life cycle of the standards process itself. This is also clear from the facts that often even as a particular standard is in the stages of approval, work on the next standards commences.
  2. Standards bodies often need to come up with a least common denominator in its specification and in the interest of expediency, generally have to choose to ignore complicated or controversial issues.
  3. Some of the issues related to accessibility, are so entwined in issues of usability and design, that it is difficult to make concrete standards without making assumptions about the nature of use of the system, the faculty set of the user and other environmental factors. In the continuum of accessibility-usability-design, the standards are only able to address the safe generalities than the highly variable specifics.

The points above should not be read as criticisms of standards, but merely as an observation of the facts.

Now, switching over to the practice side, take the classic cases where a web or digital asset owner takes the steps towards ensuring diversity. She is often driven by one or more of the following:

  • Social and values based reasons– CSR for companies, social pressure for individuals
  • I care about diversity, and want to make sure that there are no barriers in my organization for people with a non-standard set of faculties
  • I have a digital asset and want to come across to others as someone who cares about diversity
  • Regulatory and Legal
  • I need to comply to the accessibility rules/regulations/laws of my country/state/association in relation to and if I don’t there is a possible negative consequence
  • Commercial
  • I or one of my customers have or will have an audience or customers that is diverse and needs accessibility
  • I or one of my customers need to show some others that we are accessible so that we can get some new business
  • I or one of my customers deal exclusively with a segment that have a non-standard set of faculties that have accessibility implications and our offering needs to be precisely tailored for them

Consider the various cases above. While clearly not an exhaustive treatment of all possible cases, you can see 2 significant flavors:

  1. I need to convince a certain constituency that my digital asset is accessible
  2. I need to make my digital asset as accessible, usable and appropriate as possible to one or more specific class of users with non-standards faculties.

In both these cases, standards compliance is a requirement. For case 2 above, however, the asset owner would be ill-advised to stop at standards compliance and should consider additional steps to put forth the best possible offering – from accessibility, usability and design standpoints for the specific audience(s) in mind.

So here goes the stake in the ground:

We believe that standards compliance is a necessary but not sufficient condition for ensuring best possible levels of accessibility.

We do believe that current standards ensure a high degree of accessibility. However, we believe that there are additional steps that can and should be taken to allow a person with a non-standard set of faculties the best possible experience with a web site or application.

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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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The Fake IPL Player is on inclusive planet!

That’s right, the FIP (fake IPL player) has started a channel exclusively on  inclusive planet where he will read out one chapter a week, for members of inclusive planet.  Sounds too good to be true? Listen to this!

If you are not a member, what are you waiting for? You can register for free at http://inclusiveplanet.com/en/register. Once you do that, then head to http://inclusiveplanet.com/en/group/495133 and subscribe to the channel.  We got two podcasts up already, read out by the one and only FIP himself!

That’s all we got to say. Hope you enjoy your weekly dose of Appams and  Naans and Chirkut Telis (Our other personal favorite 🙂 )

Will keep you updated with every new podcast

Best, Anant

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It seems that everyone has an opinion on twitter… they love it, hate it, don’t mind it, find it useful, or think it’s a waste of time. But they still have an opinion on it. While I was doing my research I found some very interesting articles like Top 5 ways Smart people use Twitter, why twitter will endure etc. I also found Why I don’t use twitter. You can read all these and make up your mind for yourself. Better yet, sign up and try it out!

But whatever you do, don’t dismiss it out of hand. There is value that twitter provides, if you know how to tap it effectively.
We started actively tweeting from @inclusiveplanet recently and the response has been phenomenal! I don’t want to measure the results based on the number of followers or lists etc. What I will base it on is the solutions that we have discovered, and similar minded people & organizations that we have managed to connect with!

Now coming to the point of the blog post – You can now tweet from Inclusive Planet!

Of course we didn’t debate over the potential use of twitter. Our decision was easy to make – Our planeteers asked for it! J
Many of our members pointed out that they would like to tweet from Inclusive Planet – what they are doing on Inclusive Planet, share with other people something that they saw or read on Inclusive Planet.

This is a pretty exciting move for us. It allows all our members to let the rest of the world know what you they’re upto! Or as one of planeteers, Tomi puts it – “my vocational school blocks Twitter now 😦 Inclusive Planet to the rescue! 😀 #1P”

I suggest you join in on the fun… and don’t forget to use #1P – the official Inclusive Planet hash tag.

Tweet away….

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