UoP starts accessibility research lab for visually impaired students

Jun 08, 2012, 07:58 IST | Adnan Attarwala

The visually impaired students and researchers who have trouble reviewing webpages can now breathe easy as the Advanced Technology Blind Student's Learning Centre of University of Pune (UoP) has set up a first-of-its-kind accessibility research lab. The centre has received Rs 8 lakh from the University of Grant Commission (UCG) for the project.

According to the centre, most of the webpages are not designed as per standards and the screen reader is unable to read them, thus making it difficult for the visually impaired to comprehend data. Keeping this in mind, the centre will design the websites and implement national and international accessibility standards in various software applications like Google, MS Office, Oracle and even social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin.

Dhananjay Bhole, the centre coordinator, said that the purpose of setting up the lab was to make technology accessible for all disabled students, to improvise on and review various national and international standards of accessibility, and conduct research work in the related areas.

“There are several national and international accessibility paradigms like internet, desktop accessibility and mobile applications whose standards are reviewed by various bodies under the WorldWide Web Consortium, where several people of related areas assemble and work together in area of accessibility. By setting up this lab, we’ll be a part of these working groups. Accessibility is a discipline of computer science and through this we are making things usable for the entire visually disabled society,” said Bhole.

Since there’s no additional software or accessibility options available for the visually impaired and other disabled students of technology at the university or elsewhere, the students at present use screen reading software in the learning lab to read pages on computers.

“The software companies are not bothered whether such accessibility programmes are implemented or not for the disabled. The screen reader can’t even read a PDF file, which is not designed as per required. Incidentally, even the UoP site does not hold such facility for the disabled. Once this is implemented in various webpages and applications, it will be useful to all researchers and students, as they will be able to browse freely,” Bhole said. 

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