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Cloud-Based Web Accessibility Testing of Indian Government Websites

The National informatics Centre (NIC), under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), is organising the launch of the Development of Cloud-based Web Accessibility Reporting Solutions Challenge.

A selection panel shortlisted five start-ups based on their ideas, after multiple stages of the challenge, and then a grand jury finally selected the winner. The startups and companies participating in the challenge were required to come up with a solution that could be used as a self-assessment tool by departments to evaluate and continuously monitor the accessibility of their websites. It would be deployed on NIC’s NextGen Cloud in a software-defined infrastructure, a press release wrote. The government outlined a list of tasks and features the software must include:

  • The ability to test the complete website (by providing the top-level URL) or page (URL).
  • The ability to report noncompliance (NCs) as errors and warnings (with screenshots if required), along with a link to the relevant WCAG technique to meet that checkpoint.
  • The ability to report checkpoints and features that need manual checking along with the link to the relevant description of the checkpoint.
  • A feature to create an inventory of media (images, audio, videos) and documents present on the website.
  • A facility to securely store iterative versions of assessment reports.
  • Two user roles (administrator and tester) for each website are registered on the application.
  • A super admin role to have access to a dashboard for all the websites, applications, and apps registered on the solution.
  • A public dashboard displaying usage statistics of the solution.

The winner of the challenge developed ‘Sugamya Web’, a web accessibility reporting solution that enables government entities to check the accessibility status of their web presence, through testing and reporting. The solution was developed based on international and national standards like the Guidelines for Indian Government Websites (GIGW). It can accurately pinpoint the code snippets wherever any accessibility issues are detected on web pages.

Sugamya Web also shares recommendations on how to fix any accessibility issue detected. It compares the scores of accessibility of all government websites and mobile apps. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have been deployed to enhance the speed, automation, and accuracy of accessibility reporting.

Web information managers and nodal officers for accessibility from all government entities would have to register to be able to check the accessibility status of their websites. The solution is not meant to be a certification tool, however, certifying bodies (like the Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification) can perform the automated reporting phase of the certification process using this solution.

The challenge was in line with the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), which is a nationwide campaign to achieve universal accessibility for differently-abled people. India is home to a population of over a billion, and half a billion Internet subscribers. Approximately 2% of the population is disabled. As India continues to adopt digital for greater reach, almost all facets of the economy are realising the benefits of leveraging technology for enhanced efficiency, convenience, and effectiveness. The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 highlighted the importance of digital technology and its impact on every person in the country.

The outbreak has led to unprecedented hardships for the masses and magnified the challenges manifold for the disabled. In such a scenario, it becomes important for all digital solutions to be geared toward solving the problems of the masses by being accessible to all citizens. To ensure the accessibility of digital solutions, an effective accessibility assessment solution that is cloud-based and easily available was a top priority.

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