Showing posts with label accessibility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label accessibility. Show all posts

Friday, November 27, 2009

A step further to ensure that Blind Judges can function effectively in the Courts

Dear Friends,

Please refer to my earlier posts on how can a Blind person work as a Judge in which I had proposed that if the petitioner, Counters, Rejoinders, Evidence, Affidavits, judgements/orders and all other documents could be in e-format, the Blind Judges would be a great success. This provides an enabling environment. Though the reasoning being given may not be striving towards an accessible and enabling environment and may be to counter shortcomings of a paper-based system like storage, maintenance and wastage of a lot of paper, it works fine for us. A blessing in disguise. Sustainability requires inclusion of all as well as being eco-friendly.

With this news, I am delighted that what I proposed some time back is surely going to see the light of the day. The good part is that the judge would be able to look at the file and relevant rules/acts on a touch/screen just like a file in the hand. And this makes it so accessible to blind judges.

I am sincerely counting on atleast six-seven blind candidates who are appearing for the forthcoming Delhi Judical Service examination being conducted by Delhi High Court. The preparation are in full swing and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

To read the news from source click on the link below or read the news here itself below the link.

SC Vashishth, Advocate-Disability Rights

Delhi High Court to start e-Courts in Dec
e-Courts will reduce paperwork and filing of cases will be much easier and lawyers will have just to submit a CD or DVD

Published on 11/27/2009 2:01:55 PM

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court plans to start e-Courts that will not only ensure speedy justice for all but reduce paperwork and be eco-friendly, by next month.

"The necessity of e-Courts has arisen due to shortcomings of a paper-based system like storage, maintenance and wastage of a lot of paper," Justice BD Ahmed said.

Justice Ahmad, who is the in-charge of the e-Court committee, said the e-Courts will start functioning from early next month, reports IANS.

Emphasising the need for fast disposal of cases, he said e-Courts will function in a more organised manner and anyone across the world can see the case file.

"We are also working on the project in which live court proceedings would also be seen on the website," Justice Ahmed said, adding that the project will be first started in one court and will soon be started in all other courts, including the five district courts in the capital.

For lawyers and litigants, the e-Courts will be a great help as it would enable them to stop carrying bulky files to the court and just a USB device or the CD of their case.

"Recording of evidence in any case will be done electronically. We are planning to have centres all across the capital from where the person can record his statement and the court can see it via video-conferencing. This will help us in saving a lot of time not only of litigants but also of the court," Justice S Muralidhar, another member of the e-Court committee said.

He noted the new system will also help to put a halt to frequent adjournments by the lawyers.

With the help of e-Courts, warrants, court notices and other documents can be sent via e-mail to the party or the post office concerned from where a service slip will be sent back confirming the receipt.

"We will also ensure that courts shall provide adequate facility to the lawyers while they argue their case using the laptops. Judges will also be given a touch screen handbook which will be like their computer screen and they can read it like a file," Justice Ahmed said.

With the introduction of e-Courts, filing of cases will be much easier and lawyers will have just to submit a CD or DVD.

"We are also planning to introduce a system where court fees can be paid online so that entire work is done at a click of mouse," Justice Ahmed said, noting introduction of e-Courts will enhance transparency, accountability and accessibility for a litigant.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Finally Railways plan to address access issues at select 1500 railway stations!

Indian Railways have been sitting over the access improvement plans over 10 years now. Several Writ petitions followed, but nothing more than assurances and promises came out. The Indian Railways have now decided to address access issues at some odd 1500 stations now which is nothing but a miniscule in such a vast country.

My Fears

  • And mind you, they say that they are doing it not because it is mandated under a binding Central Law called The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 but because of the continuous requests which are being received from the physically challenged people from all over India. What a cruel joke on the 14 year old Legislative Enactment of Indian Parliament!

  • If Railways execute the access solutions at the standards at which they are currently doing at many of the stations, I fear whether we will ever have accessibility at Indian Railway Stations and trains !

  • As long as you call alternate access ramps, reserved parking slots, low height water taps and accessible toilets to be special facilities, I doubt it would be sustainable! Answer lies in Universal Design! Why can't the stations be designed to be accessible to all based on universal design rather than special access to some.

  • Today, in the name of low height water taps, inaccessible taps have been built. Look at the socalled "accessible toilets" at stations. They remain either locked or are inaccessible. Ramps are slippery, there is no platform to platform connectivity. Wheelchairs are not available easilty at stations. Staff is often missing from "May I help you" counters. There is no awarness in the implementing contractors and engineers. What they consider accessible is actually not accessible.

Perceptions about Accessibility Differ from Actual Accessibility

The simple question- do you involve competent consultants and users to ensure that the end product is fault free? Perceptions of accessibility differ from person to person and this subjectivity kills the design and the usage of end product for the end user in absence of uniform universal design standards being adopted.


Subhash C. Vashishth

To read the news in detail click on links:

Times of India
Travel Biz Monitor

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Making The Election Process Accessible to all - an out of box rethinking is necessary

Dear Friends,

Here is my article on making the election process in India accessible to all that I wrote today:

India has recently voted in an unprecedented election wherein Indian National Congress emerged as the strongest and the single largest party though with not a clear majority. The overall voting percentage that is being put forward is 50%. I am amazed that despite India being the IT giant, with resources in hand why do we still have to follow the means of the bye gone era where voters lined up for several hours to cast their vote!! I learnt that within my close circle so many couldn't vote. Few travelling, few had official trips & one couple was so old that they couldn't venture out of the house at all. I also learnt from my interaction that all those on poll duty are not able to vote – this includes sizable chunk of teachers and government employees and security forces put on election duty. Their right to vote is denied.

Access at Booths for voters with Disability
On the top of it, our friends in the Disability Sector too, without thinking out of box, campaigned & pressurized and advocated the Election Commission of India to make all the voter booths accessible to voters with disabilities based on a Supreme Court Verdict. That included providing EVMs with braille and ramps to access booths.

The feedback is mixed. At many places especially in rural India, no access was provided in terms of Ramps or braille enabled EVMs while at some places where it was provided, the blind voters did not know the braille!!!!

I am not negating the work, lobbying & successes that we as a sector achieved during this. But to bring home the larger question- Are we giving sufficient choices to our electorate - disabled or not?

Is that the only solution?
Will it suffice and make it accessible to all if we just focused on booths and EVMs in the name of equal rights for the voters with reduced mobility (I include elderly, disabled & those with fractured leg or back, sick and those not able to move out due to any pre-occupation or condition in the definition of reduced mobility) ?

The fact remains that 50% of India couldn't vote. I would say “could not” and not “did not” because the election system is still not friendly to people. I can not vote with comfort still, leave aside those experiencing disability, sickness, busy work schedules or simply have other personal priorities.

Some Solutions
I was just looking at how a multinational bank services its customers. There will always be few who prefer to visit bank and do the transactions – may be due to any reason like illiteracy, bank is closer, not very IT friendly etc. While there are others who use ATMs, Internet Banking for all their transactions, few pay their installments by EMIs and give instructions for payment of utility bills few who give bearers cheques!

To me, this throws ample of examples how voting system could have more choices to facilitate the voting system for the diversity of citizenry. While voting at accessible Booths should continue, more options like email, SMS, (on the lines of phone banking and internet banking), postal ballots should be given to citizens to choose from so that no one is denied his right to vote as a citizen.

For those few who are not able to step out of the houses due to old age or severe disabilities or sickness and yet not friendly with the modern means could be offered choices like the vehicle mounted EVMs (taking clue from mobile ATM Machines) and the same could even go to houses (on the lines of door to door Polio campaign). The voting process can be a week long for those opting email & SMSs and one day for those who physically vote on election booths. It is all the more possible when we have the citizen’s data base on Election Commission’s website, Photo ID cards have been issued and any body can check his data on the internet. Only thing we need to do is relate one email per person for those who are internet savvy. These are just few ideas thrown and I am sure many new could be though out.

Way Ahead
Also, firstly each Indian Citizen entitled to vote should be counted and identified - placing faces to the numbers - with proper identity proofs (biometrics, face recognition, eye recognition software could be used for data base. This would necessarily include identifying voters with disabilities to bring them in to the mainstream. Access to all including those experiencing disability should be an inbuilt feature in all such options.

If we have to become a strong democracy, India has to make enabling provisions that every one irrespective of the situations they are in - busy, out for work, out for wedding, sick at home, caring loved ones in the hospitals, posted at borders as a combatant in forces, experiencing reduced mobility or a disabling condition should be able to vote with equal comforts and with ample choices. I am hopeful that if implemented such ideas could generate 90% turn-out during poll process, for we are a vibrant democracy with maximum young people in the world!

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate-Disability Rights