The Bombay High Court recently directed the State Government to update all its websites to make them disabled-friendly and file a status report in November.
The direction was issued by a Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Naresh H. Patil and Justice RG Ketkar on a petition filed by the NGO, Disability Rights Initiative.
The petitioner has demanded a direction to all government organisations and departments to ensure that their websites comply with W3C's World Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 Level AAA standards of accessibility, to ensure that government websites are universally accessible to persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
During a recent hearing, Advocate Kranti LC, appearing for the NGO, submitted a list specifying the requirements under the Guidelines which had not been satisfied. NIC and the Centre then assured the Court that necessary steps will be taken for certifying that the respondents have complied with the requirements.
Besides, the Court was assured by the Centre that it would communicate the order requiring upgradation of systems to the Ministry of Railways. The Counsel appearing for the High Court also submitted that experts in the field had been engaged by it on the administrative side, with a committee of Judges to ensure upgradation of the systems. The Counsel for SBI submitted that appropriate steps will be taken for incorporation of regional languages in their website system.
The Court further took note of the submission made by the State that the Urban Development Department had issued a communication in February, 2015, directing government organizations like MMRDA, CIDCO, Commissioners of all Municipal Corporations, Town Planning Authorities, and Maharashtra Fire Service Authority to ensure that their websites are disabled friendly.
Taking note of these submissions and requiring further compliance, the Court ordered, “The Authorities of the State would take into account the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Learned Counsel for the State assures that they would conduct appropriate survey and issue instructions to the Government Departments and Offices to upgrade their systems so as to meet out the mandatory requirements of the Guidelines for a better and efficient administration. The State Government is at liberty to seek such compliance from the local bodies like Zilla Parishadas, Municipal Councils and Panchayats.”
The Chief Secretary of State of Maharashtra was further directed to monitor the implementation of the programme in coordination with the Principal Secretaries of other Ministries including the Urban Development Department.
The matter has been directed to be listed on 30 November, when NIC is required to file a status report on the steps taken consequent to the order passed by the Court.
Read the Order Here