Tell us a little about TCS.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is a research-led and purpose driven, IT services, consulting and business solution organization that has been partnering with many of the world’s largest businesses to drive digital transformation programs for the past 50 years.
At TCS, we believe we can build greater futures with innovation and collective knowledge. Our ability to integrate our diverse workforce creates a rich culture of diverse ideas, mindsets, and possibilities towards inclusion. Our focus is to leverage individual strengths and power innovation to build a “future forward” inclusive mindset through the lens of empathy, human relationships and One TCS.
What is the story behind the development of TCS Access Infinity?
The 2006 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) has declared information access a basic human right. However, the proportion of content available globally (including in developed countries) in accessible formats is as little as ~5%. Nearly 25% of the world’s visually challenged population live in India; but barely 1% of all published content in the country is available in accessible formats for the print-disabled. Clearly, the situation was discriminatory towards the print-disabled and, in fact, every aspect of their lives, from education to employment and social standing, was getting impacted by the lack of timely information and knowledge.
When Daisy Forum of India (DFI) approached us with the requirement of a technology platform for accessible books, instead of an online library, we have gone in depth of analyzing the root causes and challenges globally, to understand how it can be addressed. Based on our study we realized that only technology solutions are not sufficient for a diverse country like India. To provide a holistic solution, we took on the onus to build a platform that will cater to the needs of all stakeholders and provide them with opportunity to collaborate to create a multiplier effect. That’s where “TCS Access Infinity” was born.
The solution not only took care of the requirements of people with disabilities, but it has taken care of critical challenges of other stakeholders like publishers, libraries, academic institutes, specialized NGOs and others in the ecosystem.
We worked very closely with DFI to validate the solutions, ran a couple of pilots and launched the platform in 2016.
Ever since the launch, this platform has started making an impact on the lives of people with print disabilities. It increased the reach to rural and the bottom-of-pyramid users on a large scale. It has 50K+ users, 200+ network of library partners, 13 educational boards (NCERT, CBSE, ICSE), 200,000+ pages of converted content and enabled 9 newspapers and 23 magazines availability in real-time. Overall, books available for download have gone up to 670,000.
There is still a long way to go, but it has laid the strong foundation to start the journey towards transformation of digital publishing in India.
How did the connection with the Accessible Books Consortium come about?
In 2014, India became the first country to ratify the Marrakesh treaty, and there was a ceremony arranged in Geneva where Monica Halil from the Accessible book Consortium invited TCS to present the concept of Access infinity and its potential to transform the accessible digital publishing landscape. So, our journey with ABC started from that time. We have closely worked through DFI and ABC. After the Access Infinity platform settled down in India and had a substantial impact, we have explored the possibilities of how this could reach more countries to create a similar impact. That’s where TCS and ABC started discussions about the collaboration.
What do you think TCS can bring to the ABC?
The TCS inclusion motto is “inclusion without exception”. We have taken the holistic approach towards having a dedicated center of excellence for exhibiting and doing research in diverse areas of accessibility. To create an inclusive world, creating accessible content is a primary requirement, where the TCS and ABC synergy matches to achieve this common goal. TCS has sound capabilities in the area of research and technology and ABC has done comprehensive and mammoth work in digital publishing, helping countries to create capacity in the production and distribution of digital publishing. This partnership between TCS and ABC could help reduce the digital divide and end the accessible book famine while complementing each other’s capabilities. We will work towards the dream of content being born accessible instead of taking a reactive approach.
Why is this collaboration with ABC and WIPO important to TCS?
We have deployed this platform in India as a part of the Prime Minister’s Accessible India Campaign, which has made millions of publications accessible to people with print disabilities by bringing together all relevant stakeholders and creating a country-wide ecosystem. For creating a similar impact, it was important to have an international partner through which this platform could be extended globally and the benefit can reach out to PwD in many countries. We believe WIPO’s ABC is the right partner who has extensively worked in this area and their contribution transformed digital publishing in the world. Through the WIPO network of 100+ authorized entities, TCS could extend this platform to create a larger impact. With WIPO and TCS complementing technology capabilities, we shall continue to enhance this platform for future needs and enhance the experience of users.
Why is this collaboration important for you personally?
I am one of the beneficiaries of the announcement of technologies and the ability of assistive technologies. I have struggled throughout my life to reach this stage from the time when assistive technology was not available, even the content in Excel form was not available. So, I decided to contribute with the best of my abilities to create solutions that would enable the technology for a person with disability and solve all the existing problems to create an equitable world. Hence, it became the purpose of my life, and this particular collaboration is an important milestone towards achieving one of the important goals of my life that I feel proud of. We were able to come up with a solution which could solve this problem for the print disabled and create a larger impact. Therefore, this particular collaboration or innovation is very close to my heart and important to me, which helped me to achieve my mission and give purpose to my life.
The Marrakesh Treaty celebrated its 10th anniversary. What can be achieved in the next 10 years?
The Marrakesh Treaty is a path-breaking milestone for a person with disability. The awareness about amending the copyright law can ensure that the books are available in accessible form in the countries who ratified the Marrakesh Treaty. Today many countries are signatories of the Marrakesh Treaty and through this treaty we can basically build capabilities in countries and transform accessible publishing. The Marrakesh Treaty is a critical enabler which can give legal backing and the global initiatives, like ABC along with several national initiatives, can work together towards this dream of content made available in real time and accessible format. In the next 10 years, I’m sure that we will see this change where even the newspapers, books etc. will be born accessible and will be available in real time to a person with disability. We can really take this big step towards creating an equitable and inclusive world around us where people with disabilities not only can take care of themselves but also will be contributing to our nation building.