At age 13, Charudatta Jadhav began losing his sight. The academically gifted student decided to face this life-changing moment with equanimity, slowly and surely reorganizing the world around him so that he could engage with it at the same level of access he had before. Jadhav brought with him these years of rigorous research and testing when he joined Tata Consultancy Service Ltd. (TCS) back in 2007.
Today, this internationally-ranked chess player heads the Accessibility Center of Excellence (CoE) at the Research and Innovation unit of TCS, lending his expertise toward the development of a more inclusive organization. In his decade-long career at TCS, Jadhav has been exploring the business impact of accessibility challenges, and the opportunities and risks involved.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 15% of the Earth’s population lives with some or the other form of disability. And these persons with disability (PWDs) face several serious challenges when it comes to accessibility – whether it is to physical infrastructure, logistics, or information and communication technology (ICT).
Technology for Everyone
But these challenges are not limited to PWDs or persons with special needs alone. From accidents to age-related changes, there are several reasons why someone could face issues while trying to access public or private infrastructure. Accessibility seeks to promote inclusion of anyone who requires alternate options to mainstream technology, systems, and processes.
And with several services and interfaces going digital, it is imperative that these new spaces are equally accessible to all audiences. “This is why our accessibility solutions are part of an ongoing effort, not a one-off drive. At TCS, our intent is to make the workplace more accessible and inclusive,” says Jadhav. This intent to ensure inclusion led to the creation of several commercially relevant solutions, all under the umbrella of the Accessibility CoE.
Through the CoE, TCS has been proactively building capabilities in the accessibility space, and generating significant revenue in the process. Starting with integrating accessibility standards into the organization’s quality management software (IQMS), the CoE then introduced automated testing to reduce the time and cost of implementation.
Through the offering TCS Accessibility Suite, the organization solves technical problems that prevent access to technology, helping clients comply with internationally mandated levels of compliance. The Suite has also helped TCS automate accessibility compliance testing for webpages to a best-in-class 55%, leading to massive savings for its 50 clients in this space.
The CoE has also revolutionized digital publishing through a tool that converts any content into any of the four universally accessible formats – Braille, DAISY text, DAISY audio and text synchronized, and Epub3 – in a single click. This tool has been integrated into Access Infinity, a unique social initiative launched by TCS to promote accessible digital publishing in India. Today, more than 2 lakh books are available in accessible form on this platform.
With voice recognition, text-to-voice, and audiobook technologies – created as access solutions for PWDs – coming into routine use, the gap between accessible and mainstream technology is slowly blurring, says Jadhav. “The industry needs to look at accessibility as a chance to develop differentiation. At TCS, we have used accessibility as a tool for innovation,” he adds.