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Deccan Herald » State » Detailed Story
Portal to help blind surf for jobs created

From Kalyan Ray

DH News Service

New Delhi: Thanks to the country’s first job portal to be developed exclusively for the visually challenged, the blind community in India too can surf the Internet to search for jobs.

The yet-to-be-named portal whose beta version is doing the rounds is likely to be launched by the second week of February, Sriram Bharatam, the chief executive officer of Hyderabad-based Iridium Interactive, which is designing the website with the help of NASSCOM Foundation, told Deccan Herald.

Developed using indigenous tools, the upcoming website is being considered a key achievement in aiding the visually challenged community to organise their lives with the power of the net.

“At the NASSCOM Foundation, we are looking at different ways to bring the disabled people including the blind community into the mainstream. Giving them an option to search for jobs is one,” the foundation’s CEO Rufina Fernandez said.

Other NASSCOM members are developing an inexpensive “screen reader” for the blind and developing technologies for them to operate automated teller machines (ATMs) without assistance. An inexpensive screen reader will reduce the burden on the employer to recruit the visually impaired as the licensing fee for existing readers are huge.

“The new job portal is an welcome step as almost one fourth of the world’s total blind population lives in India,” said Shanthi Ranganathan who heads Enable India, an NGO in Bangalore for the disabled community.

“Also if big business houses make their websites disabled-friendly, they will get additional customers,” she said, adding that some of the foreign business houses have gained financially just by doing that.

The UK-based supermarket chain Tescos has increased their sales just by making their website disabled-friendly as they too can navigate through the websites and place orders, claimed Mr Bharatam.

However, despite having legal protection in USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, most of the websites in these countries are not disabled-friendly. According to a survey carried out by an website standards magazine, among the official websites of Australia, Canada UK, USA and India, the Indian portal fared the worst.

Earlier this month, US officials had shared their experiences and offered assistance to Indian officials in a meeting in Bangalore.

Iridium too is planning to recruit about 25 visually impaired people in three of its testing centres in Noida, Mumbai and Hyderabad. “We have already recruited eight and are planning to recruit more in these centres in the next three months so that all of them are up and ready by March 2007.

They will test all our disable-friendly products before launching,” said Mr Bharatam.


*A screen reader to help the blind operate ATMs

*Inexpensive screen readers for employers

*Making business websites disabled-friendly

*Recruiting more visually impaired

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