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Aarogya Setu is mandatory, but still not accessible to people with disabilities

The Covid-19 contact tracing app cannot be accessed by those who have a visual or hearing impairment. Social Justice Ministry has asked NIC and MeitY to look into this

Tested by 11 people with visual disabilities associated with an NGO, Aarogya Setu was found to be inaccessible at points.
Tested by 11 people with visual disabilities associated with an NGO, Aarogya Setu was found to be inaccessible at points. (ANI)

The Indian government has made the Covid-19 contact tracing app mandatory for both private and government employees to ensure the spread of the virus is tracked and contained as much as possible. However, the app itself is not accessible to all citizens, especially people with hearing and visual disabilities. The app is also not accessible to people who do not have smartphones, but the government is working on a parallel solution for that.

The Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has spoken about this issue plaguing the persons with disabilities (PwD), to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the Aarogya Setu app developer National Informatics Centre (NIC).

Earlier, the use of Aarogya Setu was voluntary. It has now been made mandatory for all government staff by the Department of Personnel and Training through an order issued on April 29 and for all public and private sector employees by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) order issued on Friday.

Also Read:Aarogya Setu for KaiOS-based Jio phones already in development, confirms MyGov India CEO

The Social Justice Ministry's Department of Empowerment of PwD (DEPwD) has written to both MeitY and NIC on April 27 regarding the shortcomings in the app that makes it inaccessible to those who cannot hear or see.

"The Aarogya Setu app needs to have a separate section with specific information for persons with hearing impairment with sign language interpretation/close captioning. So far as persons with visual impairment are concerned, provision for audio guide for navigation, audio description of colour used, proper colour contrast etc. need to be incorporated," the DEPwD wrote.

The fact that Aarogya Setu is inaccessible to a certain section of citizens has been flagged by several NGOs. According to reports, disability rights activist and founder Smarthyam Anjlee Agarwal said that the app has been tested by 11 people who are visually impaired and was found to be inaccessible. This is in violation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, she said and added that a report of the findings of the testing had been sent to the DEPwD on Saturday.

Agarwal's report said that according to users, "the screen reader in the app did not announce the purpose of all controls or the type of control, whether a link or button". The report also added that "users could not identify the number of slides in a carousel, so after receiving the information in the first slide they could miss out on information in other slides". On the "Your status", "COVID updates" and "E-Pass" tabs in the app, "the screen reader was not announcing the control type, so users did not know these were interactive tabs", the report has pointed out.

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