Globally, there are more than 200 million people that are visually impaired. Visual impairment creates many issues, but one that really stands out is the lack of accessibility to quality content created to suit the needs of the blind and the visual impaired. This includes content for entertainment and learning new skills. If you think about it, nearly everything worth communicating is via print – digital or paper. And not having access to it is a big deal.
Another problem is that most new websites and services heavily use Web 2.0 technology. But the dynamic nature of the content makes it virtually impossible for the visually impaired to access.
To address this problem, Inclusive Planet launched in 2009 with a simple idea – Enable the visually impaired to share accessible content that they already were creating for themselves – via a web portal accessible through commonly used screen reader software.
A Virtual Community for the Visual Impaired
InclusivePlanet.com (a social startup based out of Bangalore) is now a website that persons with visual disability can easily use to share information and content in accessible formats (audio, screen-reader friendly etc). But its not just a file sharing website, its now also the social web for the visual impaired. Facebook is quite inaccessible for such persons, because of its very dynamic nature. On the other hand, Inclusive Planet members (or Planeteers) make new friends online, and interact socially. A totally new experience.
To check it out, I created an account for myself, and immediately received new friend requests, and requests to fill out my profile information To me, the mood within the community reminded me of chat rooms in the good old IRC days, where you could login to channels, make new friends and build virtual relationships with others. InclusivePlanet.com has several channels too. ‘Love actually’ is a really popular one as well as many channels discussing screen-reader software and content.
The website now has over 6500 members of which about 3500 are from India. These users have shared over 20,000 files of accessible content amongst one another, created 350 channels of interest, and put out over 110,000 posts.
Rahul Cherian, one of the founders is also a leading disability policy activist with extensive work in the area of copyright law. He has assisted the world blind union to draft an international treaty for the blind, to be presented to the world intellectual property organization, in an effort to make content available in accessible formats for the blind.
The big challenge will always be – How to get the word out to more visually impaired people who haven’t heard of the website yet. The visually impaired community is highly fragmented, and this makes it difficult to reach out to them.
InclusivePlanet.com is currently available in English and Turkish with people from around the world subscribing. They plan to build partnerships with non-profits, telecom and media companies to reach out to visually impaired communities worldwide. As well as support non-English speaking communities (Arabic is likely going to be the next language supported).
How you can help
If you are an NGO and would like to partner with InclusivePlanet, you can reach out to Ujjvala Ballal on email@example.com