Bogged down by inaccessibility

30-year-old Neelam Singh (name changed), a resident of Delhi who is totally blind approached Eyeway in the month of October. She is employed with All India Radio since 2013 as a Stenographer. But she faces a lot of accessibility issues in her day to day working which not only impacts her performance but also harms her dignity and independence.

For almost two years into the job, Neelam was not provided with a computer to perform her daily duties. She finally got a computer in 2015 but it is of little use to her. As a blind user, she needs to have a computer with screen reading software, along with speakers and headphones. But the computer provided to her does not have screen reading software installed. Neither has she been issued speakers or headphones. At present, she is using her personal laptop to perform her duties.

The second challenge is with regards to marking her attendance. When she joined, she had to manually mark her attendance in a register. She depended on her sighted colleagues to mark a ‘P’ for her every day. This was later replaced by a swipe card which was again inaccessible to her. Neelam depended on her limited light perception to catch a red light indicator when she swiped the card to mark her attendance. Now, this has been further replaced by a biometric machine which requires all employees to enter six digits of their Aadhar card and then their fingerprints on a touchpad. The machine is completely inaccessible for visually impaired people as it has no tactile or braille markings and neither does it have any talkback facility to guide the person. Neelam has to depend on her sighted colleagues’ assistance to perform this basic function on a daily basis. This makes her feel dependent and disabled. She finds it humiliating for not being able to independently sail through the job functions or mark her attendance.

She sought help from her immediate supervisors and concerned department heads by lodging official complaints and requesting for assistive aids and appliances. She even wrote to the CCPD but till date hasn’t received any response. She tried to meet the CCPD in person to narrate her dilemma but was refused a meeting.

All it requires to help Neelam is a computer with screen reading software (NVDA), headphones and speakers. As for the biometric machine, one can get in touch with technology vendors who can suggest customized solutions for accessibility. Alternately one can also explore to install braille indicators on the machine. Neelam has also suggested the same to her section officer.

This case has been taken up by Eyeway as a case with the potential for advocacy and also to expose the system of its lacunae. Considering the limitations to be resolved on the Helpdesk and the need to force the ignorant system, Eyeway has engaged deeply with this case. Research desk has pulled out visible violations of the RPD Act 2016 like Section 40, 42(iii), 45 and the DoPT Guidelines 2014 whose guideline C on providing aids/assistive devices and guideline D on accessibility and barrier-free environment at the workplace is clearly violated. The matter of Neelam’s inaccessibility has been conveyed to the CCPD. The matter was put directly under the attention of Deputy CCPD Dr. Sanjay Kant Prasad. All necessary documents have been filed along with Neelam’s application as desired by the CCPD office. We hope the matter will soon be resolved so Neelam can continue her job with independence and dignity.