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FICCI collaborates with Microsoft to launch a whitepaper on inclusion of persons with disabilities

Mar 08, 2021

  • Whitepaper highlights the enabling role technology can play for greater inclusion of people with disabilities

NEW DELHI, 08 March 2021: FICCI in collaboration with Microsoft on Friday virtually released a whitepaper 'Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities through Information and Communication Technology (ICT)', with knowledge support from DEOC, a social enterprise. The whitepaper underscores the potential of technology in accelerating inclusive growth for India, with a focus on enhancing accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Launching the whitepaper, Ms Anna Roy, Senior Advisor, NITI Aayog said, "The narrative should not be about technology, but about how technology could help us in achieving our goal of inclusivity."

Highlighting the importance, Ms Roy added, "Inclusivity is so important, and it is PM's key agenda too. In the area of frontier technologies, AI is important.  This report is a timely initiative."

Mr Keshav Suri, Co-Chair, FICCI Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion; Executive Director, Lalit Hotels and Founder, Keshav Suri Foundation said, "COVID has taught us to come together to be able to communicate with each other through ICT."

He further added, "Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can act as a great enabler to open the road of opportunities for persons with disabilities across sectors - education, health, social, commercial, government sectors and more. Without access to ICT, people with disabilities are not able to get equal access to potential opportunities in these areas."

Committed to supporting this journey, Mr Keshav Dhakad, Group Head and General Counsel, Microsoft India said, "Today, accessibility is not just a responsibility but also an opportunity. When a culture of disability inclusion that powers accessibility, is coupled with technology, it leads to break-through innovations. Investing in AI and other emerging technologies can improve the way people with disabilities interact with and leverage technology in their daily lives - how they access education, new skills or employment opportunities. We see this at Microsoft every day, where accessibility is built in by-design into our products, helping people with disabilities unlock their full potential at work, school, and in daily life. If embraced as a movement that draws on the collective capabilities of organizations, governments, civil society and experts, the potential for India's development is tremendous."

Ms Rama Chari, Founder and Director, DEOC and Member, FICCI Task Force on D&I presented key insights from the whitepaper on inclusion of persons with disabilities through ICT. "Technology has revolutionized the world - online meetings/online medical advice etc. But it could be a barrier if not accessible. It is not just software but also hardware like coffee vending machines which are not accessible. AI apps that are being developed must take into account the needs of PWDs."

Ms Ira Singhal, Joint Director, Department of Women and Child Development, Government of NCT of Delhi said, "In India, disability is also a consequence of family income and it's not yet about genetic disability e.g., disability due to lack of nutrition, lack of rehabilitation etc. The connect between the inventor of accessible tech and the beneficiary is missing."

Following the launch, was a panel discussion on the role of ICT in empowering people with disabilities. Mr Nipun Malhotra, Founder, Nipman Foundation and Chair, Working Group on PWD, FICCI Task Force on D&I; Mr Apoorv Kulkarni, Associate Director, Ola Mobility Institute and Member, FICCI Task Force on D&I; Ms Nupur Srivastava, HR Director and D&I Leader, Intel India; Mr Tom Clancy, Prosus and Mr Anuj Jain, Executive Director, National Association of the Deaf were part of the discussion.

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has revolutionized the world and is continuing to do so at a faster pace than ever before. The paper outlines instances where technology has served as a great enabler and equalizer for persons with disabilities, especially in post pandemic world. It highlights the benefits of flexibility that technology offers as people conduct their lives from their homes, and the greater possibility of an inclusive workforce. The paper underscores the role of technologies like Artificial Intelligence and its imminent role in creating societies and economies that allow full and equal participation of its citizens.