Coronavirus | Mandatory Aarogya Setu app not accessible to persons with disabilities

Social Justice Ministry asks NIC, MeitY to address accessibility concerns

Updated - May 03, 2020 12:04 am IST

Published - May 02, 2020 07:18 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Arogya Setu app being downloaded by children in Bengaluru. File

Arogya Setu app being downloaded by children in Bengaluru. File

The government’s Aarogya Setu app to track COVID-19 cases was not accessible to persons with disabilities (PwD), particularly those with hearing and visual impairment, the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has informed the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and the app developer, the National Informatics Centre (NIC).

Also read: Coronavirus | Survey of India maps to bolster Arogya Setu app

While using the app was earlier voluntary, downloading has been made mandatory for all government staff by the Department of Personnel and Training through an order on April 29 and for all employees in the public and private sector through a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) order on Friday.

The Social Justice Ministry’s Department of Empowerment of PwD (DEPwD) wrote to the MeitY and NIC on April 27 listing the shortcomings of the app.

“The Aarogya Setu app needs to have a separate section with specific information for persons with hearing impairment with sign language interpretation/close captioning. So far as persons with visual impairment are concerned, provision for audio guide for navigation, audio description of colour used, proper colour contrast etc. need to be incorporated,” the DEPwD wrote, asking the NIC and MeitY to address the concerns.

Also read: Coronavirus | What are the concerns around the AarogyaSetu app?

The lack of accessibility of the app has been flagged by several NGOs. Disability rights activist and founder of Smarthyam Anjlee Agarwal said on Saturday that the app had been tested by 11 persons with visual impairment who were associated with the NGO. The app was found to be inaccessible, which was a violation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, she said. She added that a report of the findings of the testing had been sent to the DEPwD on Saturday.

The Smarthyam report said that according to users, the screen reader in the app did not announce the purpose of all controls or the type of control, whether a link or button. The report added users could not identify the number of slides in a carousel, so after receiving the information in the first slide they could miss out on information in other slides. On the “Your status”, “COVID updates” and “E-Pass” tabs of the app, the screen reader was not announcing the control type, so users did not know these were interactive tabs, the report said.

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