A group of students decided that they wanted to bring about a change – a change which they considered crucial to creating a more inclusive society – one which respects and provides equal opportunities to all its members. Months of ideation, discussion and groundwork culminated in the International Accessibility Summit – a four-day event which hosted people from different walks of life in an attempt to address the problem of accessibility in India.
As initiators of change, the aim was to develop the summit as a platform for young innovators to discuss their ideas with like-minded individuals and visionaries. An introductory session on ‘sign language’ by Kavya Srinivasan was the first step towards inclusion, as she ensured that people with visual impairment actively participated. An unconventional sensitization workshop by Ability Foundation and a web accessibility workshop by Deque Systems Inc. helped us in our endeavour to spread awareness about making all spaces accessible. The lecture by George Abraham, encompassing his journey in the worlds of cricket and advertising, inspired the participants to overcome obstacles and follow their dreams.
In her lecture on law and policy for Accessibility, Amba Salelkar discussed existent policies and frameworks for a more accessible India, and brought to light the lacunae in the implementation of laws. The participants got a glimpse of how certain advancements and innovations can make life easier for people who suffer from cerebral palsy and spinal injuries, through a demonstration on ‘assistive technology devices’ by members of IIT Madras’ R2D2 Lab.
In the central panel discussion, we hosted leaders working in the field of accessibility to create a more inclusive society. The five panelists addressed various aspects of the problem of exclusion, bringing to the forefront the multitude of obstacles that people with disabilities face. A lively interaction over lunch brought together the leaders of today and tomorrow to discuss issues that prevent the nation from moving forward.
The participants got a chance to witness how simple changes in technology and lifestyle can facilitate greater inclusion, at Vidya Sagar. Through this visit, the aim was to inform that the possibilities of creating an inclusive physical space are endless, be it tactile walking surfaces or a modified play area. Further, a lecture and demonstration on ‘assistive technology’ by Suranga Nanayakkara encouraged them to innovate and spearhead social development.
The Hackathon for the Visually Impaired commenced with a demonstration of projects based on computer programming by students who had trained for eight weeks. Presentations on applications such as ‘disability chat-bot’, ‘locating talking ATMs’, games and other programs highlighted what the Hackathon had set out to achieve: to provide an opportunity to the visually impaired to access quality education and gain employability.
The summit came to a close with the participants providing wide-ranging solutions to make India accessible. It gave us a renewed sense of hope – that the necessary drive to contribute positively can go a long way in creating an impact. The summit achieved all that we had envisioned, and more. However, it is only the first step to accomplish what we aspire for – that of facilitating reforms in various spheres such as education, infrastructure, digital literacy and employment to ensure complete accessibility.
Team: Ram Prashanth M and Udith Krishna (Organising Heads), Kaushik GV, Pavithra Moorthy, Adithya Rangamani, Advaith Sridhar, Arnesh Mishra, Pranjali Manjarekar, Raghav Vaidyanathan, Ramya Kannan, Saravana Kumar