Equality, a digital illusion

Equality, a digital illusion
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KUALA LUMPUR (June 14): When the coronavirus pandemic struck and the Internet became a prerequisite, digital accessibility rose — but only for the able-bodied, those with all five senses intact. 

Persons with disabilities (PwDs), on the other hand, have found themselves in the all-too-familiar position of being left out, grappling with digital amenities that fail to consider them as users.

As private entities are not legally mandated to design accessibility into their processes, it is not shocking that there is a lack of awareness of these issues. 

And so far, they do not make an effort proactively to resolve the problem of accessibility for all.

But when PwDs face the same difficulties in accessing government services online, this points to a deep-seated malaise and a lack of empathy and awareness at the highest level of their predicament.

The reason the discrimination persists comes down to a lack of legal avenues for PwDs to take violaters to tasks. 

It has been 13 years since the Persons with Disabilities Act came into force, with bold promises to give PwDs equal access, protection, development, amenities and ensure their well-being — but it is still no more than an administrative legislation.

Access to information and communications technology (ICT)  is clearly outlined in Section 30 of the 2008 Act, which stipulates that PwDs shall have the right to access ICT on an equal basis as persons without disabilities. 

However, the Act does not specify the definition of discriminatory practices, unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act and the UK’s Equality Act, where PwDs have the power to file lawsuits and serve letters of demand for non-compliance with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards.

Read more about it in this week's issue of The Edge Malaysia.

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