By: Vikas Panikar
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, DEPwD (Divyangjan) on Friday launched ‘Sugamya Pustakalaya’ - an online library for Persons with Print Disabilities as the next chapter towards fulfilling the government’s Accessible India Campaign centered around achieving ‘Universal Accessibility’. The online library created in collaboration with National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH), member organizations of Daisy Forum of India (DFI), Bookshare& powered by TCS Access was inaugurated by Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Law & Justice and Electronics & Information Technology in the presence of Shri ThaawarchandGehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment and Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union mInister for Human Resource Development. Shri Ramdas Athawale and Shri Krishan Pal Gurjar, Union Ministers of State for Social Justice and Empowerment also graced the occasion.
Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Chief Guest on the occasion, said that the launch of this e-library was as step towards realization of the Digital India Campaign and an example of public service through innovative use of Information Technology. Invoking the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s Mantra of IT + IT= IT (Information Technology + India’s Talent = India’s Tomorrow) the Union Minister for Electronics informed the gathering that his Ministry has already made 400 websites out of a total of 1800 websites accessible. He also invoked the public to inspire change in the life of Persons with Disabilities making use of interactive platforms like MyGov.in. Emphasizing on digital technology playing an important role in bringing transparency to governance he stressed on the need to expand the digital reach to further empower the citizens of the country.
Speaking on the occasion, Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot said that the SugamyaPustakalayais a platform that would enable content to be made available to thevisually impaired citizens and that India will become one of the first developing country to provide thisfacility to persons with disabilities. Further, he added that the Department has also opened an Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre (ISLRTC) and also commissioned 18 new Braille Press along with the development of a University for Persons with Disabilities in Kerala. He also expressed hope that the launch of this Accessible e-library will trigger a nationwide movement towards an AccessibleDigital India.
Shri Prakash Javadekar in his address to the gathering congratulated the Department for initiating the efforts to put together various stakeholders to come up with this unique concept of introducing Accessibility on a public domain in the world of letters. Emphasizing on the importance of breaking barriers in knowledge dissemination the Union Minister for HRD reflected that a large part of the section in our society is left behind owing to the inaccessible reading material due to which potential contribution to the development of the country is lagging. He pledged his Ministry’s whole hearted support to the e-library initiative and said that HRD Ministry will endeavour to accomplish the task of providing all text books of all boards to userswith special needs through this online library.The Union Minister also assured that the educational institutions, Universities will be made accessible in a phased manner.
Expressing his happiness to be part of this initiative Shri Ramdas Athawale delighted the members of the audience by his motivational pep talk and stressed on the importance of empowering persons with disabilities. He said that their true potential can be realized by making mediums Accessible for them which will in turn do a world of good for humanity all together.
Shri Krishan Pal Gurjar,in his speech highlighted the various other initiatives undertaken by the Department as part of its flagship Accessible India Campaign, since its launch on 3rd December 2015. He informed the audience that this initiative by NIVH (an autonomous institute under DEPwD) and the DAISY Forum of India is a network of various stake holders involved inproviding books in accessible format to persons who are unable to read normalprint.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Joint Secretary DEPwD, Shri Mukesh Jain informed the audience that there are more than 52 lakhs people with visual impairment (2011 census) and that Accessible India campaign’s one of the most important vertical was ICT where making ICT services accessible for PWD is most important objective. He added that the launch of SugamayaPustakalya is an important pillar of this vertical and aligns itself with the Prime Minister ‘s Digital India campaign “ power to empower”, to ensure that Government services are made available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity or by making the country digitally empowered in the field of technology.
Joint Secretary DEPwD, Shri Awanish Kumar Awasthi gave the vote of thanks on the occasion and said that launch will be an important milestone of theAccessible India Campaign, Digital India Campaign, and government’s commitments underIncheon strategy, UNCERP, Marrakesh Treaty and SDG. He thanked the Union Ministers for coming out in support of the Ministry and said that a close-knit strategy between the Central Ministries will be conceptualized to further develop strategies to empower persons with disabilities in all walks of life.
Earlier, the Panel Discussion moderated by Shri DipendraManocha and Mr George Abraham from the DFI discussed the genesis of the idea of Sugamya Pustakalaya and its role in the future. The various Stake holders included Government organizations, Civil Society organizations, university libraries such as JNU, Delhi University, EFLU Hyderabad, etc. TCS and Bookshare were the other important collaborators who made SugamyaPustakalya possible.
This online library will have the following unique features:
1. Collection of all accessible materials from all over the country in single online library system.
2. Facility to enable each member organisation to provide services to their members and draw on resources of all other organisations of the country
3. Compliance of distribution system with National copy-right law and international exchange service being run by the Accessible Books Consortiumof WIPO
4. Users will be able to get books produced anywhere in the country at a single location
5. Collaboration with international agencies such as Bookshare and Accessible Books Consortium to make accessible books from all over the world available to users in India
6. Connectivity of the library to the assistive technology of the users to give direct access to the library to users through mobile phones and computers.