The MIB urged all the private satellite TV channels to carry TV programs with sign language interpretation for accessing by differently abled people.
The MIB asked the News Broadcasters Association (NBA), Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and Association of Regional Television Broadcasters of India (ARTBI) - to ask its member channels to carry the same language captions and audio description along with the shows and news reports, so that differently abled people can also watch the content with equal ease.
The DoEPwD raised its concern for the formulation of Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) for achieving universal accessibility for persons with disabilities (PwDs) which had stressed that access to TV programmes for many persons with disabilities is denied due to lack of assistive technology.
The Ministry’s advisory said that the media has always been in the forefront of taking up important issues/causes including those for the welfare of the disadvantaged sections of the society and in the recent past, Republic Day Parade with commentary/Independence Day Ceremony was carried with sign language interpretation for the benefit of differently abled people.
Broadcasters’ Point of View
While broadcasters appreciated the intention, they are not happy to implement it as technically it is not only tough but can also destroy the aesthetics of the visual appeal. They look sceptical as it and said that it would be difficult to implement the directive across all genres of programming 24x7.
According to a channel executive, “Captions are not that easy to place on a screen. You need expertise to reconstruct or translate it properly. For a news channel it is always live and to describe anything in a sign language you have to be very punctual. Manpower will also increase and lead to an increase in programming cost. The intention is very good; I’m in complete support of MIB. The implementation part is a bit difficult. The language caption will damage the look and feel of the channel.”
As per an official of a TV channel, “It is extremely tough and impossible to execute this for the entire 24-hour programming cycle. This issue should be discussed with industry bodies like the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and others before the TV channels figure out what to do.
Another channel called the step as "unimaginative" and said that TV channels presently are grappling with a new tariff regime and squeezed revenue. “Therefore, implementing the diktat of the government will put additional financial pressure on industry players.”
In 2018, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had also issued a series of recommendations, including a confusing one suggesting that 50 per cent TV channels to be developed in PWD-friendly and accessible format over the next five years. TRAI suggested that manufacturers maintain accessibility standards for set top boxes (STBs), mobile phones and landlines. Box makers were given till 2020 to make or import at least one model in different variants in an accessible format. Some of the recommendations are:
2.44:The Authority is of the view that every service provider (TSPs/MSO/DTH) should have dedicated customer support desk meant only for PwDs so that any call received from them should be directed/diverted to that desk.
2.45:Apart from having a dedicated desk it is also important to ensure that the customer support/service staff employed by TSPs and broadcasters are adequately trained to assist PwDs in accessing the services and devices designed for them.
2.46 (d): TSPs, MSOs/DTH and PSAP operators should ensure that the executives that deal with PwD customers have been given sensitivity training from time to time so as to understand and deal with the issue raised by PwDs.
2.51: The Authority recommends that DoT and MIB may instruct TSPs and DTH/MSOs to conduct frequent awareness campaigns regarding issues of accessibility, design, afford ability and information pertaining to assistive products available to PwDs and the various government policies/schemes pertaining to accessible ICT that can be availed by PwDs
3:2: The Authority recommends that in order to ensure accessibility of ICT services to the PwDs a steering committee under aegis of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities should be formed.
3.2(c): Formulate guidelines and suggest an implementation and monitoring mechanism so as to improve ICT accessibility for PwDs.
3.5 (b): TSPs, MSOs and DTH Operators should have a special desk in their Call Centres/Customer support centres where calls received from special category numbers are routed to this specialised desk which should be manned by person(s) to receive calls from PwDs using assistive technologies.
3.5 (d): TSPs, MSOs/DTH and PSAP operators should ensure that the executives that deal with PwD customers have been given sensitivity training from time to time so as to understand and deal with the issues raised by PwDs.
3.7:Every mobile manufacturer who produces 5 or more different models of mobile handsets should provide at least one mobile handset satisfying the accessibility criteria for PwDs as enumerated in the recommendations. This may be achieved by the end of 2020.
3.9:The Authority recommends that the Government should mandate all government agencies that in procurement of ICT products viz Computer hardware, mobile phones, Set Top Boxes, it should be mandatory that these are accessible to PwDs.
3.11 (d): Closed captioning control and display options.
3.12:The Authority recommends that broadcasting channels may be developed in accessible format too for PwDs with audio & visual impairment.
The way forward:
We hope that recommendations submitted by TRAI would soon be accepted by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) Govt. of India for framing a national policy which is crucial for standardization of Inclusive ICT Norms. It will help include a large segment of persons with disabilities in the mainstream, which as per the World Bank Report (2007) titled ‘People with Disabilities in India: from Commitments to Outcomes’, comprise between 4 and 8 percent of the Indian population.
Also, the population of senior citizens is about 10 to 12 % of the total population which is expected to grow more than 2.8 per cent and make up one-fifth of the total population by 2025-2030. (Report by WHO). Accessibility of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can play a great role in not only improving the quality of life but also tapping the potentials of such a huge number of India’s citizenry.