New Delhi, India, March 5, 2014: The inaugural ceremony of Techshare India 2014 (conference and exhibition) at the India Habitat Centre New Delhi was symbolic of how technology companies, NGOs, entrepreneurs, thought leaders and the Government need to come together for sustainable reform in the disability sector.
Present at the inauguration of the conference were Javed Abidi of NCPEDP, Ashoka Fellow Shilpi Kapoor, organizer Techshare India 2014 and Stefan Sjöström Vice President Asia, Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation and Neil Heslop, group director, RNIB.
Ashoka Fellow Shilpi Kapoor, organizer Techshare India said, “with 70mn persons with disabilities, India has an estimated size of at 4500 crore for assistive technologies that would enable the lives of the elderly and persons with disabilities. The Republic Day parade this year was sign language enabled- this is a movement towards change.”
Javed Abidi, a well-respected champion of Disability Rights said, “I always start with independence and the years lost. There was no law to protect the rights of PWD for about 48 years post- freedom. 1995 saw our first law, which was a positive step. We now have the Disability Rights Bill that has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha. As per the bill, accessible education is a duty of all institutions.”
Javed added, “A small change in the wording introduced in the current Disability Rights Bill is a major move in the right direction. Accessible education is now key not only for all Govt funded but also Govt. recognized institutions. The Bill also stipulates that all content in audio, print and electronic media should be in accessible format (via audio description, close captioning, sign language interpretation). We hope that the bill passes and becomes a law soon.”
Neil Heslop – RNIB stated that Techshare is a celebration of the power of technology and collaboration. He also stated emphatically that its important for all of us to acknowledge that there has never been a better time to live with a disability.
Stefan Sjöström Vice President Asia, Public Sector, Microsoft Corporation spoke candidly that a trip to Laos and the lack of educational opportunities there for young populations, made him come back from his retirement and take up his current role. He said, “We spend 10 billion dollars a year in Research and Development, which is three times as much as any other IT company. At Superbowl this year, which is known for its expensive advertising spots, we at Microsoft issued a commercial that recognised the need for accessibility with the tagline “technology has the power to unite us”.
Microsoft showcases about 350 accessibility solutions in association with 250 partners across the world. We believe that technology is very powerful.”
After the inauguration of the conference, the exhibition was inaugurated by Ms. Stuti Kacker, Secretary, Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Mr. Awanish Awasthi, Jt. Secretary Department of Disability Affairs, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
The Secretary acknowledged that the market for products and services for persons with disability should include the elderly as well, making it a market of at least 6000 crore.