New Delhi: The Social Justice and Empowerment (SJEM) Ministry on Monday directed the state governments and union territories to immediately make arrangements to provide details in an accessible format to disabled persons about the preventive steps to be taken to contain COVID-19 .
Secretary of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Shakuntala Gamlin said that she wrote a letter to the chief secretaries of all the states/UTs to immediately direct their health and publicity departments to disseminate all the information relating to COVID-19 in an accessible format to the disabled persons.
Similarly, they have been asked to give priority to the treatment of PwD in medical centres as per section 25 of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPDA), she said.
Coronavirus-related print material in braille and audio tape should be available for visually disabled, videographic material with subtitles and sign language interpretation for persons with hearing disability should be uploaded and information in the websites and social media with all documents should be provided to PwD in OCR/e-PUB format, the letter said.
Gamlin said information about the virus is very often not accessible by the PwDs and as such they remain unaware of the safety measures to be taken by them to deal with the situation.
The RPDA 2016 envisages dissemination of all information in accessible format in both print and electronically.
"You would agree with me that all the information relating to COVID-19 is to be made available in accessible formats for the benefit of PwDs enabling them to deal with the situation equally with others".
Rule 15 of the RPWA rules clearly mandates that all the websites must be made accessible in accordance with guidelines for government websites as adopted by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances and all public domain documents to be uploaded in the websites either in OCR or e-PUB format, Gamlin stated in her letter.
Meanwhile, the Department of PwD, in a separate circular, asked all the central government departments to exempt blind employees from attending offices "as they are more likely to get infected with coronavirus as they are dependent on touch functions for their mobility and work".