In today’s world, the internet has made it easy to access all kinds of services such as healthcare, education and finance, but it does not entirely cater to persons with disabilities. Like many countries across the globe, persons with visual impairments in Bangladesh find it particularly difficult to access and avail services from digital platforms. As a part of its continued effort towards inclusion, BRAC has made its website user-friendly for persons with disabilities.
The website with the added features was launched on Sunday, September 08, at BRAC Centre, Dhaka. K M Abdus Salam, director-general of the NGO Affairs Bureau, was present at the event as chief guest. Asif Saleh, executive director of BRAC, chaired the programme. Sharmeela Rasool, chief technical adviser of the human rights division of UNDP was present as special guest. Md Ismail, additional secretary, and Dr Md Abul Hossain, deputy secretary to the Ministry of Social Welfare, were also present among others.
The transformation work, which took three months to complete, was supervised by Vashkar Bhattacharjee, national consultant to the Access to Information (A2i) project under the prime minister’s office. BRAC’s official website now has a number of features that would enable persons with disabilities to use it. These include thoughtful navigation and minimum number of buttons so it can be operated with keyboards only; support of navigation through voice command; and variable font sizes. Persons with visual impairments can also adjust the screen to high-contrast colours.
Chief guest K M Abdus Salam said, "In the last 10 years, ICT usage has significantly increased. Now it's time to bolster efforts to ensure access to services for persons with disabilities."
Special guest Sharmila Rasul said engagement with persons with disabilities had largely been seen from a charity perspective. “Now, time has come for us to see things from a human rights perspective."
BRAC’s executive director Asif Saleh said, "It’s high time that we change the society's mind-set that 'persons with disabilities cannot.’ In order to achieve that change, the leadership must change their mind-set first."
BRAC is ready to share the knowledge and skills acquired through this website transformation exercise with those who are working for the inclusion of persons with disabilities into the digital world, he added.
One of the pledges of the Bangladesh government’s Vision 2021 is to ensure internet access for all, including persons with disabilities. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around four million visually impaired people in Bangladesh cannot use digital platforms. The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also endorses their rights to accessibility as well as freedom of expression and opinion and access to information. The World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative stipulates that websites should be inherently designed so that people with disabilities can perceive, understand, navigate and interact with the web.