21st September 2020, Kathmandu
Federation of Computer Association Nepal, Women in ICT (WICT) committee organized a virtual discussion on September 20. The discussion was on the topic “Accessible Information and Communication Technology: Person with Disability Perspective”. The webinar was organized in association with the Nepal Disabled Women Association (NDWA) and powered by Genese.
World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that nearly 15% of the global population lives with some forms of disability. Nearly 2-4% of this population faces severe difficulties due to their disability.
Nepal Census 2011 reports that nearly two percent of the total population of Nepal had “some kind of disability”. In fact, it is claimed to be a very low estimate due to inadequate capacity in collecting information on disability.
There are different barriers like environmental, attitudinal, and institutional barriers for the meaningful participation of differently-abled persons in decision making. Thus, the objective of the discussion was to empower such women and help them break these barriers.
If Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is accessible, then it can contribute to the challenges of accessing information. Also, it would strengthen the communication skills of a differently-abled person.
Discussion from the Webinar
Here are the guests for the webinar:
- Anil Kumar Dutta, Joint Secretary at the MoCIT
- Birendra Raj Pokharel, Chairperson at Action On Disability Rights And Development Nepal (ADRAD)
- Jaya Luintel, President & CEO at The Story Kitchen
- Sagar Prasai, Founder & Director at Diverse Patterns
- Tika Dahal, President at NDWA
The webinar began with a welcoming remark from the President of CAN Federation, Nawaraj Kunwar. Prakash Maharjan and Santoshi Ghimire helped with sign language interpretation.
Nawaraj Kunwar highlighted the deprivation of communication tools for the differently-abled people in Nepal. Therefore, he believes that government should play a role in making such tools available so that each and every person has an equal right to information, communication and technology.
Women in ICT Committee advisor Shikha Shrestha talked about the barriers for the differently-abled. Out of these barriers, information and communication are the key challenges.
Are the right-holders on the receiving end of information and technology?
Tika Dahal from NDWA presented her valuable opinion on the situation of differently-abled persons and women in the ICT sector. She also reflected on the responsibility of the government and policy-makers to disseminate information properly.
She doubts if the information meant for the disabled is really intended for them. Furthermore, she questions if the disabled can actually access such information.
Even in this pandemic, it might be difficult for the disabled to adapt to the online study fashion. In fact, women are also a victim of a male dominant society when it comes to ‘work from home’ adaptation, according to her. She pointed out that most women may have to sacrifice the usage of technology for their husband or children for chores.
Also, she praised the recent attempts of the government and other associations for advocating the rights of the differently-abled. She requests the government to collaborate with private organizations such as the NDWA to move forward with digitizing the country completely.
Digital Accessibility for all
Sagar Prasai explained about digital accessibility and how essential it is to make documents accessible for all. To ensure accessibility for all, both parties should meet in the middle ground.
For example, if creators are optimizing information for access to all, a differently-abled person should have an assistive device to access the information.
However, the concept of digital accessibility should not be limited to only the disabled, according to Sagar Prasai.
Use of Digital Signature
Anil Kumar Dutta shared that the government has been implementing the practice of digital signature. Or, at least is in the process.
Many government offices have provisions of online services that allow people to stay at home and avoid the obligation of physical presence.
Mainstream or ‘Menstream’ media
Jaya Luitel highlighted the importance of security while using online resources and platforms. Sharing a global survey of women in Media, she explained that the voice of women have been silenced. However, that is changing but not fast enough.
Both Global and Nepali data shows that media channels invite men as expert or spokesperson. There is a minimum presence of women in media in terms of their stories being heard or introducing them as role models.
She demands that the voices of marginalized, silenced, and disabled women should be heard. The Story Kitchen came to be as an alternative platform to amplify such voices, she explained.
Also Read: Exclusive Interview With the Women in ICT
Collaboration is the key
Dr. Birendra Raj Pokharel further explained the fundamentals of accessible technology. It promotes equality, non-discrimination, and participation.
Furthermore, he stressed the need for collaboration with private-public entities to bring this matter into attention. This will help to tackle the accessibility issues and develop technologies such as apps and GPS to empower and secure the disabled.
If you missed the discussion, click here to see the recording.