Dhaka, Bangladesh
Where are the access points?

Where are the access points?

Marginalisation of people, it seems, comes naturally to us in our day-to-day activities. One need not indulge in discrimination based on race, colour or gender to be involved in an act of sidelining people. Often, things such as listening to a story, watching a movie or expressing dissent at someone's views, for instance, are things that most tend to take for granted. Facilities available for people's day-to-day needs such as infrastructure, healthcare, food and so on, are designed to help the common man, one who is free from the clutches of disabilities of any sort. But how inclusive is society when it comes to making them accessible to the physically-challenged? Not giving conscious thought to such sections, too, is marginalisation. To address the lack of awareness and sensitivity in the field of accessibility, and to shed some light on what can be done to improve this scenario, a group of focussed, committed students from IIT Madras has set up the International Accessibility Summit under Shaastra, the college's annual technical fest. Udith Krishna, organising head of the event, explains how he had come across a number of people working on assistive technology. "One question that struck me was why society in general was inaccessible if there are so many people working on assistive technology. Was there a problem with the work being done or was the work not reaching people? If not, was it because policy or government rules don't allow for a fluid flow of these ideas or is it because the corporate sector hasn't evinced much interest in it?" "Our ideology behind the summit was to first raise awareness among people, both in terms of existence of problems of inaccessibility and the nature of such problems," adds Ram Prashanth, co-head organiser. "Next, we wanted to bring together the right people and resources, tap into those resources and knowledge and put everyone working in this field together so that the spark is ignited. Step three was to bring together young leaders in the field, give them access to people who have worked in the arena of accessibility and guide them on how to proceed." Udith further explains how the summit works. "The summit is a competition which will involve two tracks. Selected participants will be part of one of two tracks - policy proposal track or the social enterprise track. The former involves a case study for which students have to submit their study and propose solutions for the same. Those interested in the latter have to make a video pitch of their idea of a social enterprise which is related to accessibility. We also have a field visit to a school - Vidyasagar - for disabled and special children." However, the summit's crowning glory is the first-ever hackathon for the visually-impaired. "Lack of awareness leads to lack of employment," explains Udith. "As we wanted to create maximum impact, we tied up with an NGO and have set up a programme where an MIT professor from the U.S and a couple of others will teach the visually-impaired to code in Python. This will place them on par with others and make them relevant in the current job market." "Apart from this, there will be two workshops - a sensitisation workshop which is the first event of the summit and a web accessibility workshop," adds Ram. "There will also be three lectures - one on assistive technology, another by cricketer George Abraham who will be expounding his experiences as a differently-abled person and the third by Amba Salelkar on policy changes regarding accessibility. There will also be a panel discussion on the accessibility scenario in India," he says.

Share |