Eyeway Stories

Accessibility Matters

Twenty-six-year-old Shubham Deshmukh was born with 100 per cent blindness in a village near Amravati, Maharashtra. Two of his siblings are also visually impaired. Fortunately, the three of them acquired good education and are leading independent lives, despite blindness.

Alongside pursuing his education degrees, Shubham gained digital skills, learning to use a smartphone and computer with the aid of screen reading software. Owing to his interest in exploring technology, he presently works as an Accessibility Tester with HCL Technologies in Mumbai.

In a recent attempt of booking a train ticket from Mumbai to Amravati, Shubham encountered an accessibility gap which prevented him from availing the concession offered to Persons with Disabilities in the General Quota. He realized it was a technical issue with the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) mobile application.

After raising a complaint on IRCTC’s official Twitter handle repeatedly for two weeks, all he got was an acknowledgment that the concerned authorities had been notified. But he needed a resolution. So, he reached out to the Eyeway Helpdesk in Mumbai.

Coincidentally, the Eyeway counsellor who heard Shubham’s complaint is also a member of the Divisional Railway Users Consultative Committee of the Western Railway (DRUCC) in the Mumbai zone. He rallied support from other members to escalate the complaint to the Central Railway Board despite it falling outside the jurisdiction of DRM. And the technical glitch was fixed within a week.

Shubham got lucky this time but imagine how many people miss out on availing such provisions or even accessing digital platforms for daily use because of inaccessibility and non-compliance. In the case of IRCTC app, the issue didn’t exist earlier but a recent update on the technology backend must have caused the problem. This happens often with other apps like banking, food delivery, mobile wallets, radio cabs et cetera. It’s important to ensure accessibility as a key element in the product development cycle so that persons with vision impairment don’t lose out on accessing mainstream services that are critical.

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