The 3rd of December is celebrated worldwide as International Day of the Disabled. The United Nations has designated it as a day aimed at promoting “the rights and well-being of people with disabilities in all areas of society and development, and awareness of the situation of people with disabilities in all aspects of politics and development Sharpen society, economic and cultural life. “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which India has signed and ratified, shows a concrete way to achieve this goal.
India enacted the Disability Rights Act in 2016 in accordance with its obligations under the CRPD. The law defines a person with a disability as “a person with long-term physical, mental, mental or sensory impairment who, in combination with barriers, hampers their full and effective participation in society equally with others” and defines a total of 21 physical, mental and spiritual impairments fixed mental disabilities as well as disabilities due to chronic neurological diseases and blood diseases.
Among other things, the law calls for greater public awareness to overcome the stigma, discrimination and marginalization of people with disabilities. In recent years there has been a surge in campaigns – mostly digital – aimed at creating a more inclusive society. While these should no doubt be encouraged, there are certain legal considerations that should be taken into account.
Accessibility on the Internet
Although this requirement is not yet enshrined in law, it does not seem intuitive to run campaigns to which the main beneficiaries do not have access. Nevertheless, internet accessibility in India is still in its infancy. The 2017 Rules on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities require that every institution (government and private individuals) maintain a website that is accessible to the disabled. This mandate was scheduled to go into effect on June 15, 2019, but as of this writing the government has only published the standards for government websites and has not yet communicated the standards applicable to private company websites. In addition to compliance with the standards, the documents on the website must be in a text-to-speech compatible PDF format based on Electronic Publisher or Optical Character Reader.
For good reasons, companies should switch to accessible websites. There are many resources available online, particularly the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. If not completely, companies can choose to incorporate at least some of the tools and tactics to improve access to their websites.
It should also be noted that all organizations need an equality policy detailing the measures the organization has taken to implement the provisions of this law. It should include a statement stating that it has the necessary accessibility, facilities, amenities and aids to enable a person with disabilities to perform their duties, making it an inclusive organization. This policy should be posted on the company’s website or, if there is no website, in a prominent location within the company’s premises.
Social media has become synonymous with freedom of speech and expression, which has made it a catalyst for change. In the past few years alone, a number of movements have been led and reinforced over the Internet. However, most platforms have strict policies that determine the type of content that is allowed and prohibited on the platform. Most policies clearly prohibit any type of content that can be viewed or promoted as bullying and harassment, hate speech, or discrimination against protected classes, including people with disabilities. Content that can be viewed as triggering is also generally discouraged. We recommend reading the community guidelines of the respective platform and adapting the content so that it does not violate or promote violations, as this can reduce the reach of the post.
While targeting a campaign specifically to relevant stakeholders is one of the greatest unique selling propositions of digital campaigns, there are certain limitations that would hinder a campaign targeting people with disabilities.
The Google (and YouTube) guidelines state, “Advertisers cannot use personal hardship categories to target ads to users or promote advertisers’ products or services,” and clarify that this includes disabilities even if the Content is geared towards the user’s primary supervisor.
Similarly, the Facebook policy states: “Ads must not contain content that claims or implies personal attributes. This includes direct or indirect allegations or implications about race, ethnicity, religion, belief, age, sexual orientation or practices, gender identity, disability, health status (including physical or mental health), financial status, voting status, union membership, a criminal record or a name. “
Unintended consequences of the comments section
The comment area for posts on social justice issues such as disability is often filled with overwhelming compassion, with complete strangers ignoring their struggles and experiences. Fostering a strong sense of community is an aim, but not without risk. Most obvious is the high likelihood of hate speech breaking out: not only is it undesirable on a human level, it is also a violation of platform policies and the law. Second, this leads to the somewhat inadvertent collection and disclosure of highly sensitive personal data that can be misused by absolutely anyone to discriminate against people with disabilities. These issues may not have a direct legal impact on the campaign organizer or poster, but are highly undesirable. We recommend seriously thinking about the pros and cons of disabling the comments section (no pun intended).
Great caution should be exercised when using testimonials from people with disabilities, their family, friends or caregivers, or medical and related health professionals. Exceptions should be obtained in writing before using such content. Personal data of people with disabilities should only be disclosed with express consent and should even then be avoided. When working with healthcare professionals or related healthcare professionals, ensure that the content is not positioned as medical advice, diagnosis, or a self-diagnostic tool. Encourage viewers to seek professional help if necessary. Most importantly, make sure that people with disabilities do not appear in a bad light.
In conclusion, it would be unpragmatic not to use the platforms we have access to today to raise awareness of the many problems that plague society and to work towards a better tomorrow. However, be careful when doing this to avoid accidentally breaking the law.