Slow Yet Steady March Towards A Disabled-Friendly India
The population of disabled people in the world is about 15 per cent of the world population, that is, over one billion. Disability is a broader term and encompasses people with limited mobility, activity limitation or hearing and vision impairment. As per Census 2011, nearly 2.68 crore people in India are disabled. Nothing has dampened the indomitable spirit of people with disabilities as much as their inaccessibility to proper infrastructure. Lack of adequate disabled-friendly facilities has acted as bigger roadblock than their condition itself and prevented them from making valuable contributions to the society.
The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, both are intended towards securing the rights of persons with disability and providing them equal access. However, a lot needs to be done with regards to revamping public infrastructure like foot-bridges, trains, buses and offices and thus guarantee them a comfortable lifestyle. MakaanIQ brings you updates on initiatives by government and private bodies in developing infrastructure for the differently-abled.
Public spaces need to be thoughtfully planned with provision for braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators; provision of compatible toilets with grab bars, audio announcement system at traffic signals, wheelchair facilities, graphic signage, installation of ramps, etc. A very small percentage of architects in the country (approx. 11 per cent) are aware of the designs and expertise required for developing accessibility designs for the disabled. According to National Building Code, it is mandatory for all public places, not only airports and railway stations, to provide accessibility for disabled people. Encroached spaces, raised kerbs and bumpy pavements are some hurdles that restrict mobility of such people on the streets.
Assistive Technology: Solution
Persons with physical disability mostly depend on special devices designed to augment, maintain or enhance their functional capabilities. Inclusion of such technologies in the public infrastructure is one positive step towards helping disabled people lead a convenient, safe and independent life.
Delhi Metro is a pioneering project that has adhered to the needs of differently-abled persons by providing ramps at all stations, low-level control panel in the lifts, buttons in braille, prominent colour contrasts and lettering, etc.
Here's something more you can look forward to:
- Gujarat's Tithal beach is set to be a disabled-friendly beach, first-of-its-kind in India and equipped with disabled-friendly infrastructure. Shanghumukham Beach in Kerala was also recently made disabled-friendly when the state tourism department declared a policy aimed at providing suitable facilities like ramps, railings, lower height food counters, etc. Officials of Kerala State Handicapped Persons Welfare Corporation have made recommendations for social audit in which an individual can identify a spot to be made disabled-friendly and bring it to the government's notice. A similar initiative was launched this year in Goa as well.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi had recently declared to make all new government infrastructure in the country disabled friendly. He made the statement while attending an event at Samajik Adhikarita Shivir to distribute aid and appliances to disabled persons at the Navlakhi ground in Vadodara.
- Government has launched the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) to raise awareness on accessibility. The program focuses on making at least 50 per cent of all government buildings in national and state capitals 'fully accessible' for the disabled by July 2018. The government launched 'Inclusiveness and Accessibility Index' which is an index to assess companies across public and private sectors for disabled-friendly initiatives. The Ministry of Urban Development is striving towards setting for barrier-free building accessibility guidelines.
- Virali Modi, a wheelchair-bound woman in Mumbai started a petition to the Prime Minister to implement disabled friendly measures in Indian railways. The petition demanded provision for accessible coaches, bathrooms, etc. Bombay High Court has suggested for a separate budgetary allocation for upgrading infrastructure in Indian railways. Trivandrum Central Railway Station recently became the first railway station in India to become disabled-friendly and plans are underway to extend the facilities to other stations as well.