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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 14:44 GMT
Indian launches site for disabled
By Tinku Ray
BBC News, Delhi

Disabled woman using a laptop computer in India
Indians with disabilities are using the web to become self-sufficient
The Indian government has launched its first interactive web portal for people with disabilities.

The site, whose name, Punarbhava, means to reinvent oneself, offers information for people with disabilities and for those who work with them.

The government hopes to use the site to collect information about disabled people and their difficulties.

India officially has 21 million disabled people but non-government agencies say the figure is much higher.

The agencies estimate up to 60 million Indians can be classed as disabled if milder forms of impairment are taken into account.

'More needed'

The Punarbhava site includes a link to a disability register, an online chatroom, a blog, a discussion forum and an online "court" where redress can be sought for grievances.

According to Dr AK Sinha of the Rehabilitation Council of India, the government organisation jointly running the website, the site will "consolidate and disseminate all the information the government has on people with disabilities".

"And people looking for assistive devices - for example someone who has a hearing impairment wants to know when someone is knocking on his door while he sleeps - can find out where to buy such an instrument from the site," Dr Sinha says.

Javed Abidi, of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, said the website was "a step in the right direction" but more needed to be done.

"All websites in India should be user friendly for people with disabilities," says Mr Abidi.

Legal protection

Dr AK Sinha said the new web portal would solve some of the problems.

He said the government was making an effort to reach out to as many disabled people as possible.

"We know that the number of disabled people with access to the internet is small, but it's growing in leaps and bounds everyday."

"The government is in the process of providing computers to the remotest areas. So the word will get out," he said.

The rights of the disabled are protected by the Persons with Disabilities Act that became law in 1996.

But very little has been done to provide basic facilities for the physically or mentally challenged.

India has very few wheelchair-friendly buildings and the visually impaired had no access to any government website until now.

A screen-reader software for the visually impaired was also released at the website's launch.



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