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Relationships…

January 3, 2016 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

In my childhood, I used to feel entire village is my own home. Go to any house and we call them with some relation or the other and in return, we get affection, sense of secure. We felt so equal love that we never even felt or thought, why my cousin’s mother punished me when I did some mistake. I just think unity matters. In today’s life of globalization I see that’s missing and if this trend continues, I could anticipate future generations may not know people who have very close relationships with them. So this post brings you significance of relationships and some thoughts how we can retain relationships. Remember one thing, breaking relationship is very simple but re-building relationship is almost close to impossible; so it’s always advisable that we don’t break them.

Here are some common things I have noticed which results in creating differences in relationship.

  • As a son or daughter, it’s essential to give due respect to parents. No matter whatsoever differences qw may have in thinking, whatsoever educated we may be compare to our parents, after all, it’s our parents who laid our foundation stone. In some cases, parents may not have been able to support until we finishes our education; but that’s fine, what is important for life is foundation
  • As a parent, lets accept the change in time but make sure our culture gets due value and respect. Let’s analyze life of today and ensure children are going in right direction. Whether we like it or not, most people in present generation do not know values and it’s partially due to the environment they grow up. Sad but a bitter truth is that values are neither taught at home nor in school. In my childhood, I remember, there were no complaints from parents when their child receives a severe punishment from teacher; but today situation is that some parents look for such schools only if there is a guarantee that school never punish their children. If a child gets punished, parents question teacher and management of school right infant of child which results in development of careless attitude in children.
  • When I was working for The Manik Public School, the then Secretary Mr. Salve used to say:

    When child is until 5 and make a mistake, ignore it and explain them with a smile what they did wrong. But do not worry much about it. When child is between 5 and 12 and make a mistake, give them a spanking, caning etc., When child is between 12 and 18 and make a mistake, explain them in detail what went wrong and result but with a firm tone. Make them realize that they are wrong. Use spanking punishment only if it’s really required. When child is 18 and above, just be as a friend and guide him / her in an appropriate way.

    I believe following this advice would help children go in right direction.

  • As a parent, take best care of them until they are able to stand on their foot. Once they are married, it’s responsibility of that couple of to lead a meaningful life. It’s advisable not to intervene unless if there is absolutely a real need
  • When your son gets married, ensure that your daughter in law receives a warm welcome and mae relations with everyone within family and relatives. How she build relationships would entirely demand on how you treat her. While you think that she has come from outside, do remember that for your son and your family, she has left her entire family and share life with you all.

To retain best relationships, stay in touch but this doesn’t mean one should involve in every aspect of lives of others but be ready to extend helping hand when there is need.

If you visit someone’s house, ensure that you spend time with them and not by watching TV or social media. These days sadly we see situation like when there are guests at home, people just switch on TV and start talking about what’s happening;but they don’t realize that guests are actually there to have a chat with them.

I know there can be a lot more to be written and I might do so in the days to come but to conclude, it’s essential to maintain healthy relationships. All that remains is good will; saying “hello” does not cost anything.

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Disability and terms used

December 28, 2015 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I have been following a hot discussion on social networks about terms used to mention “disability” of a person. In the recent speech of Mann Ki beat by Shri. Narendra Modi, Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, he has appealed country to call people with disabilities as “DIVYANG”; which means a person with divine abilities and this has triggered community of people with disabilities to think through.

For several years there are words used like Blind, Visually Handicapped, Physically Handicapped, Deaf and Dumb, Mentally rEtarded, Mentally Handicapped etc., and there wasn’t much of a problem though term sounds a bit rude. But for a bout a decade or so, people started using terms like “Challenged, differently abled, special needs, specially abled” etc., These terms have absolutely no meaning. Let’s take a few words and see their meaning:

  • Challenged: Let’s say “visually challenged” – what are they challenging? are they challenging vision loss? Challenging means you are oppose to something and you are willing to prove it wrong. Can people with vision impairment drive a car and win challenge with vision loss?
  • Differently abled: Well, what are the different abilities do people with disabilities have? It’s only that that they rely on assistive aids and adopt to techniques but there is “different ability” that exist to people with disabilities. In fact, this term should be used to anyone who has a unique ability.
  • Special needs: OK, every human being needs something or other different than everyone else and not only people with disabilities expect something special. Yes, people with disabilities need assistive aids and technologies but for that matter everyone need something or the other differently. Even when traveling, a few travel in second class, a few travel in First class; do we call travelers in first class as travelers with special needs?

Now coming to word “Divvying” as suggested by The Prime Minister Mr. Modi. From the speech, my understanding is that Mr. Modi’s intention is to let the world know though some people have limitations with one organ, they may have extraordinary power with another organ. And probably with his nature of spiritual mindset, his thinking may be right. I believe, his meaning is that as people with disabilities rely on other organs more to adopt to their limitations and it’s God who have provided strength to accept limitations.

That said, it’s really not essential to work too much on refining these words instead should spend time to improve infrastructure, policies and much more needed things to empower people with disabilities. It’s right sign that India has started Accessible India Campaign and it’s time to push for passing of New Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill which is due for a long time.

As far as words are concerned, I think one should just go with “People with Disabilities” as mentioned by the United Nations. Moreover, it’s not the words that really matters but how we are including people with disabilities into the mainstream is the key.

So let’s get back to work and focus on much needed initiatives.

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NGOs, let’s be smart; it’s 2015!

June 11, 2015 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

It was in 2010, I wrote a post on how I would like to see disability organizations and we are now in mid of 2015; but I don’t see any much change.

I got a call from a disability organization (I prefer not to mention the name) and person who called me is their employment officer; whose responsibility is to identify suitable jobs for their clients and the conversation goes as follows:

Me: Hello, this is Srini here
Caller:Am I speaking to Srinivasu
Me: Yes, you are
Caller:Hello, my name is xxxx and I have recently joined xxx organization as an employment officer
Me: Okay, how can I help you?
CallerAs I said am an an employment officer working for a disability organization, does your organization have any job openings?
Me: Well, there would be plenty of job openings but what kind of jobs are you looking for?
Caller: You know we work for people who have some sort of disability so do you have any openings that they can take up?
Me: Okay, I’m sure people with disabilities can take up wide range of jobs, so can you please tell me what skill set does your candidates have and what kind of jobs are they interested in?
CallerAny job sir
Me: (I got a bit annoyed); what do you mean by any job? there might be CEO or Chairman job would be available, do you have any candidates? You should tell me what kind of skill set your candidates have and what are their interests? I would suggest please go back and work on specifics and we can then talk…
Caller:Ok (and hangs up… doesn’t even say a thanks:-()

Ah! the person called me from very far from Hyderabad and I’m sure she would be calling several people from across the country; which means she would be investing a lot of money on phone calls that too without any preparation.

Come on guys, we are in 2015 and there are so many opportunities. Let’s the NGOs upgrade the way we work and provide quality services.

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Accessibility – who should decide the level of conformance?

February 10, 2015 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I think Jitendra Vyas encourages me to write stuff here! This is again in response to his question on twitter asking:

Who and how decides which WCAG level should follow for a project? A, AA or AAA

In general, I have seen companies are required to meet at least Level AA of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines and the possible reason for this would be that check points up to Level AA are reasonable to achieve from practical development prospective. Level AAA requires much more efforts to achieve though not impossible.

It’s the product owner who should decide the level of conformance for the project keeping in mind the purpose of their target audience, purpose of the product, regulations of their particular region. Some regulations like the Europe may have much more strong rules than some of the other countries.

If product owners does not have such a knowledge, it’s the job of accessibility experts who should work with product owners and create a road map. However, at the end product owner should have an understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Although if decision to meet Level AA, it’s not a crime to meet Level AAA wherever it’s possible!

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Fixed header on top vs Back to top link

December 7, 2014 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

Recently Jitendra Vyas asked over Twitter that if users prefer fixed header or Back to top link; that prompted me to write this post. By the way, I started writing this when he tweeted but some how missed posting it; sorry about that.

Fixed Headers are very helpful for people who are mouse users, people with low vision, elderly and learning disabilities; reason is that it will be easily accessible even when user is at the bottom of the page and headier is always visible.

At the same time, back to top link is helpful to keyboard and screen reader users so that they can quickly jumb to the top of the page to use other navigational items. Specially this is useful when users are reading or interacting with lengthy pages.

So to conclude, I recommend use of both.

Categories: Articles, Uncategorized • Tags: ,

Button Shape feature on iOS 7 – very cool!

July 10, 2014 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I wish I activated this button shape long back. This is very cool. One of the benefits I see it increases visuals for buttons across the apps and also underline text on buttons.
20140710-092320-33800515.jpg
To activate this option, go to: Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> turn ON button options.

One issue Apple should fix is that contrast for cancel button on compose window of mail app. It appears as blue text on black when button shapes are turned-on. Screenshot below!

20140710-092946-34186073.jpg

Overall this is a cool feature for people with low vision, elderly and cognitive disabilities.

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2014 Year in review!

February 4, 2014 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

January
Our sweet heart Khushi Varshini's first photoMissing my sweetheart Hema and baby darling… Received new year wishes from many. Built website for Access India convention – a meet up of several visually impaired folks. NAB Karnataka has won GudVille campaign! Kameshwari and I wrote a Review on TaxiForSure’s iOS app

From 12th January to 14th January, spent at holy place of Shirdi. This was first visit of our little darling to Shirdi. Priests have kept baby at the Lotus feet of His Holiness Shri. Sadguru Sai baba. We have also witnessed the Godha Kalyanam under the auspicious hands of our Guruji.

Vasu visited Mumbai, met with most affectionate family of Sumit bhai and also held discussions to grow SG Accessibility.

Celebrated Indian Republic Day at Manthri Tranqvil representing NAB Karnataka

Initiated Conversations for a strategic partnership between NAB Karnataka and EnAble India.

Saddened to hear the demise of ever star, Shri. Akkineni Nageshwara Rao garu.

February

Beginning of partnership with Digital Accessibility Centre, UK – hoping this relationship would go a long way.

Glad to know that Satya Nadella is named as new Chief Executive of Microsoft.

In midst of all relatives, we have celebrated naming ceremony of our cute little darling and named her as Khushi Varshini meaning of which is a baby who pour all the happiness.

Vasu went to New Delhi to attend Techshare India and 4th Access India Convention. Events went off well but exhibition and sessions at Techshare India could have been better. PayPal is one of the silver sponsors for Techshare India.

Planning for Global Accessibility Awareness Day has started. This year it is planned for 15th May.

March

March started with exciting time of visiting my grand mother along with Hema darling and our angel Khushi. My grand mother is aged about 96. May god grant her a good health.

We have witnessed the inauguration of renovated Shiva temple at Injaram. Thanks everyone in the village who have put in the efforts.

Indeed excited to join Victor Tsaran’s team officially.

A strategic partnership has been established between EnAble India and The National Association for the Blind, Karnataka Branch. Hoping this would lead to a wonderful outcome and expansion of services at both the organizations.

March 23sup marked Hema’s mom’s birthday.

In April, we have visited Injaram again and then celebrated Shri. Ram Navami at Guruji’s house in Hyderabad then back home with our sweet little darling!

In June, performed Feeding ceremony (Anna Prasana) for our little one. She touched fruits, flowers, termaric and Kumkum. June also witnessed our anniversary and my birthday. Thanks Dhanasri and Vivek for wonderful wishes and celebrations.

In September we have celebrated Hema’s birthday and then moved to Hyderabad as I have changed job to lead accessibility efforts at HCL Technologies.

Also, during 2014, have taken up some freelance work with some major organizations. It was wonderful experience and looking forward to more of such ventures in the future.

India has witnessed a breakthrough by welcoming new government under the leadership of Shri. Narendra Modi. Sure it was a big lesson to congress for the bad decisions they have taken during their stint including bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh state and formed Telangana state. Although it may benefit some section of people or as a state, the way the decision has taken is not in correct manner.

2014 also witnessed lost of some great talent specially in the film industry including Shri. Akkineni, Shri. Bala Chandar etc.,

2014 also saw a great victory of India winning the World Cup for the Blind. This is for the first time where government has recognized the efforts of sports for the blind and encouraged the team with a good support.

Alright there may be quite a lot of things that I have missed but wishing you all a very happy and prosperous new year 2015. Let’s hope this new year brings a lot of good health, prosperity, friendship, peace and success.

Categories: Articles

How the visually impaired can use a computer?

January 9, 2012 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

Thanks to NASSCOM Foundation for publishing my below article.

Most often, people have a question – can a blind person use a computer? If so, do they need a special keyboard or a special computer?

Before answering this question, let me take an example of a typist who never looks at the keyboard but can type with speed and accuracy. How is it possible? Practice! Yes, it’s the same in case of people with vision impairment. They just need to be trained. They do not require a special computer – all that they need is assistive technologies.

Firstly, let us understand that vision impairment is of two categories:
1. Total Blindness
2. Low vision

Definition of blindness: http://www.nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/fr/fr19/fr05si03.htm

A person who is totally blind would be able to use the computer with the help of screen readers or Refreshable Braille Display. A screen reader is a software application that attempts to identify and interpret what is being displayed on the screen (or, more accurately, sent to standard output, whether a video monitor is turned on or not). This interpretation is then presented to the user with text-to-speech, sound icons, or a Braille output device. Screen readers are a form of assistive technology (AT) potentially useful to people who are blind, visually impaired, illiterate or learning disabled.

A Refreshable Braille Display or Braille terminal is an electro-mechanical device for displaying Braille characters, usually by means of raising dots through holes in a flat surface. This would be useful to those who are blind or deaf-blind. Because of the complexity of producing a reliable display that will cope with daily wear and tear, these displays are expensive. Usually, only 40 or 80 Braille cells are displayed. Models with 18-40 cells exist in some notetaker devices. A person with low vision would have to opt to use screen magnification software that allows the user to increase / decease the size of elements, change the contrast, use variety of mouse pointers etc.

With the help of these kind of assistive technologies, users with vision impairment can use almost all the applications in any computer such as word processing, spread sheets, presentations, internet, email clients, web designing tools such as Adobe Dreamweaver,programming tools like Visual Basic, .net, database management systems etc.

Although, they rely on audio output, they can work at an amazing speed! All this is possible since assistive technologies provide them the flexibility to read only the information they require. Let’s look at an example of how one can navigate through a web page using a screen reader – Non Visual Desktop Access (NVDA) – a free and open source screen reader.

  1. Press “Windows” logo key to activate the start menu
  2. Activate option “Run” and type the choice of application e.g. Firefox
  3. Once the Firefox application starts, press “Alt + D” to access the address bar
  4. Type choice of URL, e.g. http://www.yahoo.com

Now let’s understand how the screen reader actually reads. There are several ways to navigate the page using screen reader:

  1. By using the down arrow key to read the entire page.
  2. By using the “Tab” key to browse through the elements such as links and hit enter to activate the desired element.
  3. By using quick navigational keys such as H and Shift + H for headings, K and Shift + K for links, F and Shift + F for form fields, G and Shift + G for graphics,etc.

Also, most of the screen readers such as NVDA offer list of elements in a dialog box such as with NVDA, by pressing Insert + F7, user can revoke elements list box that consist of links, headings and ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) landmarks.

As explained above, users will have a lot of flexibility with these assistive technologies and can perform operations at a rapid speed!

Some of the popular screen readers:

Tip: If you are don’t have time to download the screen reader, but need a screen reader to surf the Internet, just visit http://webanywhere.cs.washington.edu and type the web address, and it will read aloud for you!

Now, let’s talk about people with low vision. Around 60% of people with low vision do not possess enough level of vision to see the monitor and for some, this vision may not be stable. Hence they prefer to use screen readers to avoid strain of the eyes. But the other set of low vision users use Screen magnification software to use the computer. Some of the feature that a screen magnifier have are:

Zoom-in and zoom-out the screen
Set the desired contrast for foreground and background
Increase and type of the mouse pointer
Adjust the speed of mouse pointer
Some have screen reading feature as combination

Some of the popular screen magnifiers:
– Dolphin Supernova, Commercial – http://www.yourdolphin.com
– ZoomText Xtra, Commercial – http://www.aisquared.com

To conclude, with the help of assistive technologies, a person with vision impairment can use computer for everything like any other user!

Thousands of Websites; all are citizen centric; but are they accessible to all citizens – a review

October 17, 2011 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

Reproduced from CIS Accessibility Blog Thanks CIS for the opportunity.

Today, there are about 7800 Central and state government websites hosted by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). They are all certainly citizen centric – whether it is the Ministry of Finance, banks, the passport authority, educational board, transport, consumer affairs, or the most important website that generates revenue for the government – the Income Tax Department.

However, the question which we need to ask is whether these websites are up-to-date and accessible to everyone? Internet is often more useful to people who are elderly and for people having disabilities.

What does accessibility really mean? Accessibility is nothing but ensuring that information and functionality is available to all users including people with disabilities. The Accessibility Guidelines identify an accessible website as one which can be perceived, operated, understood and is robust. Today, thanks to the advancement of technology, people with disabilities are able to use computers and perform every task that others do. For example, a visually impaired person uses the screen reader to access the computer; a deaf blind user uses a refreshable Braille display, hearing impaired persons rely on captions to understand the multimedia, learning disabled users rely on image based content and elderly people prefer to see large fonts and so on. In addition, there are lots of features available in the browser itself. For instance, in Firefox, we can increase the font size by using key combination of CTRL and Plus and can also change the contrast of the page.

Having said that, website owners need to follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 to enable people having disabilities and elderly persons to surf the web more effectively. In India, the Government of India and the state governments need to follow the Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW) formulated by NIC.

A brief survey of some 1500 of these websites revealed that barely one per cent of these meet the requirements of the above guidelines. Many of them are not up-to-date and some don’t even reflect government identity that could actually make users think of authentication.

The websites were checked for their elements and their mark-up; which means, audit was conducted to see text alternatives for non-text elements such as images, videos, buttons, etc. Other criteria were the presence of heading structures, associated labels for form fields, grouping of form elements, keyboard access for navigation, slide shows and other media, links and image maps. The test also checked to see if rich functionality works with keyboard and on text browsers; whether flash content works well with screen readers and documents are verified for accessibility; in addition, websites were checked for the color contrast.

The methodology used to test the websites was a combination of automated and manual testing. The initial testing was done using the automated evaluation tool WAVE, a Firefox add-on which checked for errors and features, structure, outline of the website, simulation of text version and simulation with no styles. This was followed by a manual check for appropriate text alternatives, heading structure, form labels, colour contrast, etc. The test revealed that most of the websites were not accessible, merely due to the lack of semantic mark up and common errors, some of which are described below:

  • No text alternatives for images – Without text alternatives, neither screen reader users nor search engines and those who disable display of the images on the browser can perceive information about the image.
  • No associated labels for form fields – Without associated labels, screen readers will treat the form fields as orphan form fields with no labels and read them as “unlabelled”fields. Hence, it will be impossible for visually impaired users to fill in those forms.
  • No heading structure defined – This would create an issue both for search engines as well as persons with disabilities. Assistive technologies such as screen readers usually have access keys for users to quickly navigate a page, which rely on the mark-up.
  • Deprecated Marquee has been used – This is a deprecated element in HTML and ought not be used anymore.
  • No keyboard functionality for flash content and drop down menus – Without keyboard support, people with mobility limitations and visually impaired or elderly users and those who do not wish to use the mouse cannot perceive the information.
  • Not enough government identity is present – It is GIGW’s requirement that all government websites should display government’s identity through emblems.
  • Several websites have poor color contrast – This will prevent people who are elderly and persons with low vision from easily identifying the content of a web page.
  • Several websites have used table based layouts – This is not the best practice to control the layout; one should use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
  • Information is cluttered in some well known websites such as that of the Income Tax department – It will be difficult to perceive information easily by people who are elderly, who have low vision, have learning disabilities and those who surf the web through mobile devices.
  • Several websites do not have a mechanism to send feedback – It is again a GIGW requirement that every website should have such a mechanism.
  • There is no mechanism to skip the navigational module – This is an extremely useful feature to help screen readers and keyboard users to skip navigational links and directly access the main content.
  • No accessibility options such as large text or color schemes are provided – This would be helpful to less experienced users who are as yet unaware of in-built browser options.
  • Several forms do not have a mechanism for error handling – It is necessary to inform users about errors before submitting the form.
  • Several websites do not have appropriate page titles – Page titles help users to know where they are on their computer.
  • Many websites do not have site map – This is an easy way to have access to all the pages at one place.

Hence, there is a lot to be done to actually enable every citizen to use these citizen centric websites. There are guidelines in place at http://web.guidelines.gov.in and it’s time for every ministry to ensure successful implementation and to make their portals accessible to all.

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Travel Tips for people with vision impairment

September 22, 2011 • Srinivasu Chakravarthula

I often read in some mailing lists about need of escort for visually impaired travelers. While that’s true that having an escort would be helpful for people with vision impaired, I have also seen several visually impaired traveling alone, busy attending conferences. So wanted to collect trips and tricks for people with vision impaired as to how they could travel independently. Am collecting tips through several mailing lists and social networks, will share the responses that are appropriate here. If you are a person with vision impairment and a frequent traveler, please do add a comment. That will not be published in the comments section but I will incorporate in the article with due credit.

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