Showing posts with label Barrier Free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Barrier Free. Show all posts

Monday, May 9, 2016

RTI reveals Delhi's Schools not compliant to CBSE guidelines on disabled friendliness

This report filed by Mr. Manash Gohain in Times of India Delhi Edition and published on May 08 2016 titled "City schools tough place for disabled" based on over 160 RTI replies received by Ms. Abha Khetrapal of "Cross the Hurdles" reveals how equipped and serious Delhi is when it comes to providing quality education in an inclusive set up for children with disabilities. Here goes the story.

Most Delhi schools are not inclusive, and their differently-abled students are deprived of assistive devices or materials even though the Central Board of Secondary Education has issued guidelines on these. Replies to queries under the Right to Information received from the capital's government, government-aided and private schools reveal that most of the institutions have not carried out audits to establish the levels of the prescribed amenities.

Unfortunately , CBSE, having issued three guidelines over the years, too said in a reply to an RTI query that it had no information on access audits, compliance and action taken in case of non-compliance. The education board first issued guidelines on making school disabled-friendly way back in May 2005. It reissued fresh guidelines in October 2008 and then reiterated these in 2009, making it incumbent on schools to comply with measures suggested in the guidelines.

These included provision of support through accessible educational material and the availability of trained teachers, modification of the existing physical infrastructure and teaching methodologies to meet the needs of all children, including those with special needs, ensuring availability of study material for the disabled and talking text books, reading machines and computers with speech software and the induction of an adequate number of signlanguage interpreters, transcription services and a loop induction system for the hearing-impaired students.

TOI has copies of the 160 RTI replies received by petitioner Abha Khetarpal, President of Cross the Hurdles, an NGO that works with people with physical challenges.Only two of the schools claimed to have carried out the mandated access audit. In a majority of the schools, the queries about study materials, teacher training, infrastructure, access audit report and number of students with disabilities evinced "not applicable" as the response. Just five schools said they had visually-impaired students, and there was no data on students with disabilities like locomotor disability.

According Khetarpal, “The annexure in the 2009 guidelines clearly stated the things that schools were to provide in order to make them inclusive, failing which they would lose their affiliation. CBSE now replies that they do not keep a record of such information.“ The board told Khetarpal that affiliated schools only provide Open Text Based Assessment material in Braille, but this carries only 10% weightage in the final exams and is also meant only for Classes IX and XI. What about 90% of the study material, she asks.How would students with visual impairment cope?

Some private schools refused to divulge the information on the ground that they did not come under the purview of the RTI Act. So, there is no confirmed number on students with disabilities in regular inclusive schools and what they study . Khetarpal says that when asked this, CBSE said it not only didn't have the data, but that it also doesn't monitor compliance of its guidelines.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jharkhand CM unveils State's Disability Policy on 20 Mar 15

Dear Friends,

Jharkhand Chief minister Raghubar Das on 20 March 2015 (Friday) released the state's disability policy, underlining the need for collective efforts to facilitate barrier-free movement of people with disabilities and inclusive programmes to bring them into mainstream.

Mr. Das heading the BJP Govt in Jharkhand urged all government departments to be sensitive towards the problems of persons with disabilities and  to ensure proper execution of the policy to bring about tangible changes across the state.

"All old government buildings in the state, which currently do not have lifts, will soon be equipped with elevators to ensure barrier-free movement of people with disabilities," Das said while speaking at a daylong state-level workshop on disability at Sri Krishna Institute of Public Administration in Ranchi which was organised by Department of Social Welfare, Women and Child Development in association with NGOs Deepsikha, Chotanagpur Sanskritk Sangh and UNICEF.

The newly launched state disability policy accepts that at least 5 per cent of the state's population lived with some sort of disabilities - double the number (2.26 per cent) quoted in the recent census report of 2011.

Apart from barrier-free movement, the policy also stresses on inclusive programmes with regard to health, education, nutrition and employment, to ensure social rehabilitation of persons with disabilities.

To access the copy of the Jharkhand State Policy for Persons with Disabilities- 2015 in Hindi Language click on the image below or the Text Heading below the image. 

झारखण्ड राज्य विकलांग जननीति हिंदी भाषा में प्रकाशित की गयी है/ इसे पढ़ने के लिए कृपया निम्न लिंक पर क्लिक करें!

  झारखण्ड राज्य विकलांग जन नीति 2015

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Delhi: Most polling booths not disabled-friendly

New Delhi, 12 March 2014

People with disabilities might face serious difficulties while casting their vote in the upcoming general elections as a number of polling booths across the Capital neither have accessible washrooms nor reserved parking, an RTI application has revealed.

 A 2007 Supreme Court judgment ruled that special facilities need to be put in place to make polling booths more accessible for persons with disabilities.

 Not to speak of sign language interpreter, some of the polling booth organisers even replied that they could not entertain people with mental or psychosocial disability as there is no such provision in law, said RTI activist Satendra Singh, a doctor at the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) and Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, Delhi.

 Also, there is no record of the number of disabled voters in India or Delhi and no information on complaints and action taken on violations of the Supreme Court's order to provide facilities in polling booths for disabled voters.

 While replying to the RTI query of Dr Singh, two assembly constituencies (ACs) 2 and 16 said there were no arrangements for washrooms at all for disabled voters. Ten ACs replied there were arrangements of washrooms but these too were found to be inaccessible for such voters when cross checked by Dr Singh, who himself is a person with disability.

 "None of the washrooms are accessible for wheel chair users. Even hospitals lack accessible toilets," said Dr Singh.

 He said since the majority of the venues (polling booths) are schools and colleges, they rarely have ramps, forget about toilets with changes. Only two ACs had accessible washrooms.

 "The RTI info gathered from 70 assembly constituencies (ACs). Since the same will be used for the seven parliamentary constituencies (PCs) in next month’s general elections, it becomes of paramount importance to highlight the violations of 2007 Supreme Court judgment and inadequacies of CEO Delhi in protecting electoral rights of persons with disabilities," said Dr Singh.

 More than five ACs have no reserved parking for disabled electors despite having enough space, while four ACs said there were no provision for extra queues for such voters.

 When asked whether people with mental or psychosocial disability are allowed to vote, six ACs replied in the negative. Besides, two of the ACs, gave identical answers ~ "Since person with mental disability cannot be an elector, the question of voting does not arise.”

 Dr Singh, however, said, in the eyes of the law, every person (including mentally ill, mentally challenged, medically ill, hospitalised, incarcerated) over the age of 18 is fully competent unless it is declared otherwise by a court of law.

 "If a person's name is in the voter list s/he can vote irrespective of whether s/he suffers from a mental illness or not. Only if a court of law declares a person incompetent then the exclusion applies," said Dr Singh.
 Chandni Chowk, which is a VIP PC, replied that all facilities have been provided.

 Dr Singh termed the situation as alarming for the Election Commission of India (EC) and Delhi State Election Commission (DSEC), as the elections for the 16th Lok Sabha are just four weeks away.

Source: The Statesman Mr. Chandan Prakash Singh (

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An app to tell you which public places are accessible

Monday, February 17, 2014 - 06:00 IST | Agency: DNA

Want to know if a restaurant, mall, cinema or a public promenade is friendly for the differently abled? Or whether the lifts in a public building can be used seamlessly by those confined to a wheelchair?

Help may soon be at hand with the state information technology (IT) department planning to develop an app and a linked website which will enable the physically challenged to record their feedback about whether facilities and public spaces are disabled friendly.

Rajesh Aggarwal, principal secretary, IT, told dna that they were working on developing an app to indicate disabled-friendly areas and facilities. "Users will be actually keying in the data," said Aggarwal, adding that this could even cover issues like whether a wheelchair could be accommodated in a cinema hall, mall, multiplex or a walkway.

This facility will also raise awareness about buildings and facilities which are disabled friendly and also compel those which are not suitable for the physically handicapped to re-engineer themselves accordingly to fit the requirements.

The IT department plans to launch the app on Android platforms to be accessed by smart phone users while a corresponding website will be developed for those who do not use smartphones. Aggarwal said they would also request Microsoft to help get the app on the Windows platform.

Welcoming the idea, HK Savla, managing trustee, Jeevan Jyot Cancer Relief and Care Trust, which works for cancer patients and the disabled, said this initiative would raise awareness about the need to make public spaces more disabled friendly. He pointed out that only a few buildings had ramps for the disabled or even toilets to meet their requirements. Savla also recalled an instance where a girl working in a post office was unable to take her wheelchair into the building or even to the toilet.

The department is also developing apps for MahaNews and Lokrajya and has come out with an app to enable users to view the government resolutions (GR) issued by the state government. While MahaNews is the state government's official news and information website, Lokrajya is the state government's official magazine and mouthpiece. The magazine will be available in Marathi, English and Urdu on the app.

Source: DNA India

Thursday, March 14, 2013

MHADA considers reservation for PH in Affordable Housing

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Realising the dream of Barrier Free enviornment in Public Spaces

Dear Colleagues,

Its over one and a half decade when The Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act was passed in India with specific mandate under sections 44 and 46 that stipulated barrier-free accessibility for the disabled at public buildings. However, the sad story is that it is not in the priorities of the State Governments still to make their offices accessible. With impunity access to even social welfare sections/ pension sections/ public dealing offices continues to be through staircases rather than lifts/ ramps. In fact the entire office complex is supposed to be accessible if section 33 of the Act mandating 3% reservations in the jobs is to be respected and complied with in its true sense.

There exist guidelines from the office of Chief commissioner Disabilities titled "Plannning a Barrier Free Environment", CPWD's "Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Freeenvironment for Disabled and Elderly Persons" and also Model Building Bye-laws  of Town and Country Planning Organization (Min. of UD) incorporated by most of the states to ensure accessibility in the public places/buildings.  The National Building Code 2005 and its earlier versions mandated accessibility and barrier free environment in the public buildings. However, the government offices especially in the States continue to defy the norms.

To facilitate easy implementation and remove bottlenecks of funding, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment has been giving project based funds to make public places accessible to the states/agencies. However, the states either seem to have not shown interest in this or are little too slow on acting on the funding scheme available.

Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India which is the nodal ministry to ensure a barrier free environment had started this initiative by getting the access audits done through competent agencies for the union government buildings in Delhi and in other major cities and also the satellite towns. The next phase of implementation of the access audit reports is in progress in the Capital and several states. 

For implementation of Section 46 of the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, the State Governments have nominated an official in each district (designated as Access Officers/ Inspectors  )for bringing cases of non-compliance to the notice of the concerned authorities in addition to the office of State Commissioner- Disabilities whose mandate is to see the implementation of the said act.  It has been found that often the nominated official/Access officer has no knowledge of the barrier free environment. Often their powers/scope of duties is not properly indicated and it is either just an additional charge given to them.

The State governments- barring a few like Goa etc - have not taken sincere initiatives to ensure accessibility in their buildings and public services- which also include access to information. Most websites of the state governments and even some union ministries continue to be inaccessible for the visually impaired users and those with mental challenges. 

This calls for alternate remedies and a strict and time bound implementation of the mandate. The Chief Commissioner - Disabilities at the Centre has been very pro-active in issuing notices to the Government departments, universities, post offices and banks etc to ensure their buildings and services accessible. However, the State commissioners have been little lethargic on this front.

Suggested measures

(a) State Commissioners should on their own motion or on receipt of complaint/ information take immediate action to ensure that the flouting department provides accessibility in a time bound manner. More stakeholders should approach the State Commissioners for persons with disabilities, a list of which is available at link : STATE COMMISSIONERS-DISABILITIES. On how to write a complaint/grievance visit link: Writing a Petition for your Grievance.

(b) State Governments should be directed to provide a dedicated office of the nominated official in each district called as "Access Officers/ Access Inspectors" and provide their coordinates on the State Government Website/ District Collector's website with phone numbers, email ids, FAX etc. These access officers/inspectors should be provided sufficient staff at block level/ panchayats who should inspect the existing buildings to ensure they are accessible. Their duty should also involve giving recommendations on the building plans of the new buildings. The Access officers should either give their nod/or reject with reasons within a fixed time period. No buildings should be allowed to be built without a clearance from the access officer. 

(c) More NGOs/ user groups, stakeholders, family members should be encouraged to bring the cases of inaccessible public buildings to the notice of access officers/disability commissioners.

(d) The Access Officers/ Commissioner- Disabilities should be trained and sensitized on creation of barrier free environment. All new joinees on these posts should undergo the sensitization.

(e) If the state has not adopted the model building bye-laws, the existing guidelines by the Union Government/ Chief Commissioner - Disabilities should prevail in such cases.

With these measures, I am sure we can achieve much more than just sitting and criticizing the non-implementation of the PWD Act 1995.  

Here is one news report from Jharkhand published in The Telegraph talking about inaccessibility of the Collector's office, Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. 

Built on crippled common sense

- Collectorate degrades disability act with staircases

Visually impaired Sonali Pal (35) from Uliyan Kadma nearly fell on December 22, 2012, on the staircase of the first floor of the district collectorate while going to submit a memorandum of protest against the Delhi bus rape before East Singhbhum deputy commissioner (DC) Himani Pande

When orthopaedically challenged Deepak Kumar Srivastava (31), secretary of Jharkhand Viklang Sansthan, has to meet officials such as deputy development commissioner (DDC) Dadan Choubey in the course of his work, he climbs steep stairs using crutches to reach the first floor of the district collectorate

On an average, around 10 disabled persons who visit the East Singhbhum district collectorate office a day, know what it is like to feel like second-class citizens.
The three-storey (G+2) collectorate building in Sakchi, Jamshedpur, does not offer accessibility to the disabled.

Even though the structure came up in 2003, eight years after Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act with sections 44 and 46 that stipulated barrier-free accessibility for the disabled at public buildings, staircases and not ramps were the only links between floors.

According to conservative estimates of a Jharkhand Viklang Manch survey, nearly six per cent of the total 22-lakh-plus population of East Singhbhum district comprises the disabled.
It appears a sizeable population of 1.32 lakh can’t access their own district collectorate without feeling humiliated and risking a fall.

Most senior bureaucrats, including DC Himani Pande, additional deputy commissioner Ganesh Prasad, additional district magistrate (law and order) Ajay Shanker, DDC Dadan Choubey, executive magistrate Sunil Kumar and others, have offices at the district collectorate.

These apart, important departments including social welfare, DRDA, welfare, district information office and nazarat deputy commissioner office are also located in the same building.

Manch president Arun Kumar Singh said they had submitted petitions to all deputy commissioners from 2006 onwards, protested twice in front of the district collectorate and written to former state commissioner (disability) Satish Chandra, but nothing happened.

“It seems our plight does not bother bureaucrats. Mounting stairs is a risk. Plus, it is a time-consuming and painful process. But there’s no way out at the district collectorate,” said Singh.

Former state commissioner (disability) Chandra — the post is vacant since December 2012 — admitted to receiving petitions from the disabled in Jamshedpur.

“I had taken up the issue of barrier-free accessibility. But nothing has been done so far,” Chandra said.

State social welfare director Krishna Prasad Dev Sahu agreed the problem was serious. “When a new commissioner (disability) is appointed, he will be entrusted with the task of ensuring that the disabled can access the district collectorate with ease,” said Sahu.

On being prodded, deputy commissioner Pande claimed they had asked the executive engineer of building construction department to prepare a blueprint for a ramp and guidelines tiles on staircases for visually challenged.

“We are planning these things. We will look into it,” she said without giving a deadline.

Source: The Telegraph

Monday, March 4, 2013

Concerns arising out of Rail Budget 2013 for Persons with Disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

Recent railway budget speech of the railway minister announced the following for the benefit of persons with disabilities:

"India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the rights of the disabled. We are conscious of our responsibility under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To facilitate the boarding of trains and exit from the stations for the differently-abled and the elderly, the steps proposed include provision of 179 escalators and 400 lifts at A-1 and other major stations, affixing Braille stickers indicating the layout of coaches including toilets, provision of wheel chairs and battery operated vehicles at more stations and making coaches wheel-chair friendly.

In order to provide an employment avenue to the disabled people, I propose to reserve a specified number of JTBS for them, keeping in view the fact that the PCOs at stations have become largely redundant after the mobile revolution in India".

Concerted efforts to fill up approximately 1.52 lakh vacancies this year. It is a measure of popularity of railways as an employer that a staggering 2.2 crore applications were received. For the first time, Railway recruitment examinations were held at more than 60 cities across the country. In the process, a backlog of about 47,000 vacancies earmarked for weaker sections and physically challenged is likely to get cleared".

PIB has published the budget highlights that are available in PDF at link: Rail Budget 2013 highlights.

Critical Review of Rail Budget 2013

Here is a the para - wise critical review of the rail budget 2013 from the perspective of the disability sector and the mandate of UNCRPD and the spirit of Disability Act::

(a)       Passenger Amenities:  The paragraph does not mention the amenities will be made inclusive and follow universal design standards to be accessible and friendly to everyone irrespective of abilities. Persons with reduced mobility have been facing infrastructural barriers in the community for a long time. The railways must declare and budget for making its rolling stock as well as platforms and services accessible and barrier free based on universal design. Currently the effort is just to make a small exclusive section accessible which actually excludes people from the mainstream and renders them vulnerable.  While A-1 and major stations have been proposed to be made accessible by lifts and escalators, we strongly suggest you to include sustainable non-dynamic features like ramped access to foot-over bridges at all the Railways stations to provide connectivity to all the platforms (as provided on Agra Railway Station and few others). This makes it easier for passengers with heavy luggage, those travelling with elderly members and children and for women.   Similarly, the concern of platform to train compartment transfer is still unaddressed. Even the so called disabled friendly coach has four steps to access it hence it remains inaccessible to disabled people. It is pertinent to mention here that the philosophy of Universal Design has been specially included in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) that you have so kindly referred to in the Budget speech.

(b)      IT enabled services: The paragraph is silent on the web accessibility standards requirement, online booking allowing booking concessional tickets by passengers with disabilities and other listed services inclusive. This is despite the fact the UNCRPD specifically refers to making all the Web services accessible and Govt of India has already mandated WCAG 2.0 level for websites. The online system continues to ignore passengers with disabilities.  (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility)

(c)       Ticket Reservation: The paragraph doesn’t mention about accessible e-ticketing facility even while talking about the enhancing the speed and capacity of the system. Declaring and clarifying the same would be in line with the mandate of the UNCRPD that India stands committed to. (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility)

(d)      Catering:  The toll free number for complaint doesn’t address the needs of persons with hearing impairment/ Deaf passengers who primarily depend on the text SMS for filing any complaint. It is requested to consider SMS based complaints also to make it inclusive to deaf passengers. (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility)

(e)       Rail Tourism: This section doesn’t mention about accessibility while the designing the executive lounge at Delhi. Similarly regarding the trains, it says "The train will be made attractive and affordable through concessional fares", without any mention of their being accessible based on universal design so that everyone irrespective of disabilities can enjoy the use the lounge and train services. It would be pertinent to mention that accessibility will promote rail tourism also among a large number of international travelers with disabilities, elderly travelers and their families who have been, so far getting discouraged due to lack of accessible tourism options in the Country. (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility & Article 30 - Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport)

(f)       Staff: Our experience indicates that the amenities such as quarters and hostels etc continue to be designed without keeping the needs of the diversity of employees. Railway being the largest public sector employer, it would be in the fitness of things that staff amenities such as the quarters and hostel are made barrier free based on universal design and that the ministry makes a special mention about it in its formal communications. (UNCRPD Article 9 : Accessibility)

(g)      Skill Development:  This section must include marginalized groups and persons with disabilities to bring them to the mainstream so as to realize the mandate of the UNCRPD. (UNCRPD Article 24 Education & Article 27 Work & Employment)

(h)      Rail Heritage: The plan to revamp the museum for the benefit of children is a welcome step. Currently, there are lots of accessibility issues from the perspectives of children with visual, mental and physical disabilities and it should be confirmed that the whole revamp would be done in consultation with the involvement of stakeholders so that the museum is based on best international standards and inclusive to every child irrespective of his abilities. (UNCRPD Article 9 Accessibility & Article 30 - Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport)

Disability Sector not happy with the Railway Budget

Disability Rights is off the rails

Javed Abidi

Like all other years, this year’s Railway budget did not bring any cheer for India’s 70-100 million people with disabilities, a large number of whom depend on the Railways for their basic mobility needs.

The only difference was that for the first time, the new Railway Minister talked about the substantive issue of accessibility at the stations and in the coaches. However, the discrimination and indignity faced by millions of persons with disabilities trying to use the Railways cannot be addressed by mere pious statements of good intent. The barriers are deep-rooted and systemic.

Let’s try and understand what it means for the average person with disability to travel with the Railways.
To begin with, you can’t buy the tickets online. The website is not accessible as it does not conform to web content accessibility guidelines despite a Government of India policy mandating so. And even if you are not print-impaired, you ‘have to’ physically go to the booking counter with your disability certificate in hand to avail yourself of the discount and get a prized seat in that one single accessible coach per train.
The booking counters are not accessible and that one ‘accessible’ counter for ‘special’ and ‘differently-abled’ people (pun intended) is not manned most of the time.

To top it, by the government’s own admission, more than 50 per cent of the people with disabilities actually don’t have a disability certificate.

Even if you are lucky to have a disability certificate, you are forced to purchase two tickets and to travel with an ‘attendant,’ never mind if you are totally independent and can actually travel alone.


To get to the coach is another huge struggle. The way to the platforms is not at all accessible. India is still stuck with the concept of foot over-bridges with a thousand steep steps, and no ramps or lifts. You are therefore left with no choice but to use the same path as the luggage carts — littered with potholes and garbage.
The concept of ‘accessibility’ for the Railways has remained limited to one accessible toilet for the entire station. God help you if you urgently need to use one but you are on Platform No. 2 and the ‘disabled-friendly’ toilet happens to be at the extreme end of the station, beyond Platform No. 7.

It is the same story with all other public facilities such as the drinking water taps, the public telephone booths, and so on.

The worst aspect of the Railways in the modern, 21st century India is the segregated coach for people with disabilities. This ‘special’ coach for ‘differently-abled’ people is attached now to almost every long-distance train either at the beginning, immediately after the engine, or towards the very end, right next to the guard. A person with disability doesn’t have the same choice as other passengers because all the other coaches are not accessible.

We all know the story of Mahatma Gandhi having been thrown off a first-class carriage in South Africa because of the colour of his skin. I say Gandhiji was lucky. After all, he did manage to get into the coach. I, as a wheelchair user, can’t even get inside.

What is needed is a holistic, time-bound action plan with a generous resource allocation. We are not asking for any miracles but there should be a serious start somewhere. I offer a simple three-point agenda to our new Railways Minister: Make the Railways website accessible. Make all A1 category stations fully accessible (stations are categorised by passenger traffic). Make at least one coach accessible in every class of every train. Fix a practical time frame, allocate a decent budget and for God’s sake, then just do it!

(Javed Abidi is a very disgruntled disabled Indian citizen. He has been a wheelchair user for the last 33 years and yet, is not 'wheelchair-bound'. He keeps travelling around the world as the Global Chair of Disabled People's International (DPI). He is neither ‘invalid’ nor ‘special.’ And, he certainly is not ‘differently’ abled. He travels by train all the time, but only in America and in Europe. At home, in modern India, he cannot. He cannot even get inside them but he wants to. Hence, this piece, in the hope that things will change. He is Convener, Disabled Rights Group (DRG) and Chairperson, DPI.)

Source: The Hindu

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Continuous defiance of Accessibility Guidelines by Delhi's Civic Agencies bring them no harm

Dear Colleagues,

It is painful that in Delhi, the access is still a matter of advocacy, cajoling, recommendations despite a CPWD Manual of 1998, Chief Commissioner's guidelines of 2001 and National Building Code 2005. Today, most public buildings of the Government, Banks- whether public sector or private, schools - both private and public,  post offices, Pension offices, Dispensaries, ATMs, Bus stations, Pedestrian pathways, intersections,  markets, cinema halls, para transit vehicles, continue to remain inaccessible for persons with disabilities in clear breach of the legal mandate! 

Reason... no time frame in the law and no penalty for not ensuring accessibility and on top of it the tags like "within the limits of their economic capacity" that are found in the Disabilities Act of 1995 which otherwise can not be used given the huge sums lying with the authorities for the purpose.

All flyovers that have been created or are being created in the name of providing signal free arterial roads like inner ring road (Mahatma Gandhi Marg), outer ring road, make no provision for the pedestrians to cross over to the other side more particularly those provided at Dhaula Kuan Flyover, AIIMS Flyover & Mool Chand Flyover etc. The pedestrians including those with disabilities are forced to come in conflict with the moving traffic in absence of accessible pedestrian crossovers. Government's ever  road widening spree has made roads dangerous for pedestrians and it fails to address the congestion and pollution.

Most  pedestrian underpasses, foot-over bridges make no efforts to assimilate those living with reduced  mobility. Wherever, some relief is provided in terms of accessibility  it is usurped by parking mafia, encroachments and a bad civic sense. Is this the city or community do we want?

What we need today is deadlines and strict enforcement. Failures in achieving the deadline must meet a financial penalty on the responsible officials/ department. The guidelines on the Barrier Free Environment must be implemented by all departments and especially the civic agencies under whose domain the most public infrastructure is.

Our Social Welfare Minister has made an effort through her letter to all the departments of Delhi Government to ensure that guidelines are implemented properly but I see even here there is no deadline. The advisories don't work in the political system unless there is accountability for the continued defiance. 

It is the time that we no longer state "problems faced by persons with disabilities" as  reasons for providing accessibility. This must become a part of DNA of the Civil Agencies to plan and execute projects that are based on universal design. No more benefits in percentages that often seem to work counter productive. It has to be borne in mind that an accessible environment is beneficial and friendly to every body hence this is a requirement for every one and not just the disabled.

Here is the coverage from Times of India today:  Follow Advisory for Disabled: Walia

Follow Advisory for Disabled: Walia

Naziya Alvi Rahman / TNN / Feb 5, 2013

NEW DELHI: To make city roads and buildings disabled friendly, social welfare minister Kiran Walia has asked all government agencies involved in construction of roads and buildings to consult the manual ‘Planning a Barrier Free Environment’ compiled by the office of chief commissioner for persons with disabilities.

In a letter sent in January, Walia has also directed PWD, local bodies, DSIIDC etc to implement the recommendations in the existing buildings. “I am writing to you to bring to your notice the difficulties being faced by the disabled persons in accessing schools, banks, shopping complexes, Metro stations and ATMs,” stated the letter. “The concerned engineers could be given proper guidance for planning a barrier-free environment as per the recommendations in the manual, a copy of which has already been sent to you,” it added.

In the Disability Act 1995, the civic bodies have been directed to implement the measures suggested in the manual “within the limits of their economic capacity”.

Sources said Walia took up the issue after she came across a report highlighting plight of a boy who struggled for hours to take his disabled father from the entry point of a railway station to the platform. “I called several meetings and toured campuses and public buildings. We found that most public buildings lack disabled-friendly measures. Also while our buses and bus stops have been designed in disabled-friendly way, our pavements are not. Therefore, we have made an attempt to divert the attention of civic authorities towards city buildings, roads etc,” said Walia.

The social welfare department also directed the chief commissioner to ensure the implementation of the measures and follow it up regularly. The manual, which was compiled with the help of Indian Spinal Injuries Centre experts, has been out since 2001 but the city has hardly seen any implementation of its recommendations.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Barrier Free Buildings- a distant dream- State Governments show little interest in Central Assistance Scheme

Dear Colleagues,

In October 2010,  Govt. of India invited proposals from States to give central assistance to provide barrier free environment in important State Government buildings in the State Secretariat, Collectorates, Main Hospitals, Universities and other important Government offices to ensure that these are accessible to the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) under the ‘Scheme for Implementation of PwD Act, 1995 (SIPDA),’ after effecting a major increase in the annual allocation (Rs 15 crore-Rs 20 crore to Rs 100 crore) this year.

While there were apprehension put forward by the activists that how this was going to be implemented in absence of abysmal number of access auditors in the country both for infrastructural access and web-access. Even after almost one and half year, this scheme  has found very few takers. This indicates two factors – which continue this vicious circle of inaccessibility. First is the lip service by the Government – both at the centre and the states- second is the “We can not do much” attitude of Persons with Disabilities, their organisations, DPOs/ NGOs and parent’s organisation.

We have found a similar lukewarm response to an earlier scheme for promotion of employment by which the government offered to pay a certain sum for Provident Fund contribution for the employee with disabilities.

Disability is not a priority area for the government – both at centre as well as at States, since they are grappling with much more serious subjects (seriousness is judged from the perspective of how adversely the segment may affect the voting patterns in the elections!). Therefore, after the lip service in form of schemes, nothing much comes out in absence of concerted effort on the part of NGOs/ Disabled Persons Organisations and Confederations. I remember similar story appearing in the Times of India on 07 November 2010 titled Challenge for the disabled when the new Disability Commissioner took over. However, not much has happened since then.

Barrier Free environment is your fundamental right for it is essential to enjoy “Right to Life” as enshrined in the Constitution of India and eloquently spelt out by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in its various path-breaking judgements.

Therefore, it is high time that Confederations, NGOs, DPOs  who claim to work with and for persons with disabilities in India and as well as disabled people in this country to raise voice through different mediums – representations, dharnas, sit-ins outside the Minister’s office/residences, petitions in the Disability Commissioner’s court, Writ petitions in the High Courts, and every possible way which is democratic and lawful. I am sorry to say, without this, we will have similar news stories every six months explaining the pathetic conditions of inaccessible pedestrian pathways and inaccessible public spaces and transportation systems.

Subhash Chandra Vashishth
Advocate- D isability Rights

Here is this story from Times of India, Pune Edition dated 01st March 2012:

Barrier-free buildings a distant dream for disabled

PUNE: Makrand Vaidya, who walks with the help of crutches, feels intimidated when he has to visit government offices in the city, because of their limiting environment.

“I have visited so many government offices here and none are disabled-friendly. My wife, who is on a wheel-chair, feels the same. My condition is such that I cannot use the crutches for an extended period of time. So, when government offices do not have ramps or a lift, I have to climb up a flight of stairs by sitting on every step to rest before moving forward. Situations like that not only drain my energy, but also my confidence,” said Vaidya.

A visually-impaired student, who declined to be named, said, “There aren’t any staff to guide the people with disabilities (PwDs) who visit government offices. More often than not, staff at government offices tend to misguide you by giving you wrong directions and partial information. Inquiry booths for PwDs at all government offices are indispensible. Lack of such facilities only delay our errands further.”

The fact that the Pune Disability Commissioner’s office has not received adequate number of applications from the state government departments seeking grants to make their offices barrier-free, shows the disinterest in making public buildings disabled-friendly.
The Union government had sought proposals for Rs 12 crore from the states, to make required changes in the office premises of state departments and make them better accessible to physically-challenged people.

Though the deadline to send the applications is already over, the Disability Commissioner’s office here has received applications seeking funds to the tune of just Rs 8.5 crore so far. What’s more, the Pune divisional commissioner’s office and the Pune Zilla Parishad, which were specially asked to send their requirements for grants under the scheme, are yet to respond.

Proposals from states have been invited by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment under the ‘Scheme for Implementation of PwD Act, 1995 (SIPDA),’ after effecting a major increase in the annual allocation (Rs 15 crore-Rs 20 crore to Rs 100 crore) this year.
Officials from the disability commissioner’s office had made a presentation to various state government departments, including Pune Zilla Parishad and the divisional commissioner’s office, to encourage them to submit proposals for making provisions for barrier-free environment in their respective buildings.

“However, no proposal has been received from the zilla parishad and the divisional commissioner’s office, and we are still seeking to fulfill the shortfall of Rs 3.5 crore,” said an official from the Disability Commissioner’s office.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), 2008, to which India is a signatory, calls for making buildings, work places, facilities including information, communication and other services, etc, accessible to PwDs on an equal basis. In addition, section 46 of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, makes implementation of barrier-free environment for PwDs everywhere, especially government buildings.

The official said, “However, in spite of the legislation, people are unaware of what exactly is a barrier-free environment. Only a ramp and a toilet on the ground floor do not amount to the structure being barrier-free. Thus, central assistance on significant scale under the SIPDA is provided to states to encourage them to move in the direction of making their buildings totally barrier-free.”

He said the disability commissioner’s office authorities have focused on providing at least four features in the government buildings that have hitherto submitted applications. “A ramp, toilets on all the floors for the disabled, signage boards for the hearing-impaired and a lift (for buildings where ramp does not go beyond two floors) are barrier-free features which will have to be added in the buildings mandatorily,” he said.

The official said the disability commissioner’s office had asked the state health department for proposals from eight civil hospitals from eight regions of the state. “We, however, have not received any applications from the health department,” said the official.

The disability commissioners’ office had also asked the higher education department to send proposals to make their websites accessible to PwDs and institutions environment barrier-free. However, only five universities and 11 directorate offices from the state have sent proposals within the time limit.

The official further added that Amravati district collector, Mumbai university and divisional commissioner, Mumbai, have also not sent applications. “Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, has given a proposal to the tune of Rs 3 crore, Rs 76 lakh for making four of its buildings barrier-free. Others who have sent the proposals include North Maharashtra University, Jalgaon, SNDT University, Mumbai, and Nagpur Veterinary College,” the official said.

Dananjay Bhole, co-ordinator, Blind Students Learning Centre, University of Pune (UoP), said, “I have been working at the UoP for the last couple of years and was also a student earlier. For me, mobility on the campus has not been a hindrance because I have been here for some time now. But, initially, I faced several problems here since there wasn't any cell to help physically challenged people. With increasing awareness UoP has taken initiatives to make its environment more disabled-friendly. The new buildings on the campus can be easily accessed by physically challenged people. Access to old buildings is difficult for wheelchair users as there are no inclined ramps installed at the entrance to the buildings.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Finally Railways plan to address access issues at select 1500 railway stations!

Indian Railways have been sitting over the access improvement plans over 10 years now. Several Writ petitions followed, but nothing more than assurances and promises came out. The Indian Railways have now decided to address access issues at some odd 1500 stations now which is nothing but a miniscule in such a vast country.

My Fears

  • And mind you, they say that they are doing it not because it is mandated under a binding Central Law called The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 but because of the continuous requests which are being received from the physically challenged people from all over India. What a cruel joke on the 14 year old Legislative Enactment of Indian Parliament!

  • If Railways execute the access solutions at the standards at which they are currently doing at many of the stations, I fear whether we will ever have accessibility at Indian Railway Stations and trains !

  • As long as you call alternate access ramps, reserved parking slots, low height water taps and accessible toilets to be special facilities, I doubt it would be sustainable! Answer lies in Universal Design! Why can't the stations be designed to be accessible to all based on universal design rather than special access to some.

  • Today, in the name of low height water taps, inaccessible taps have been built. Look at the socalled "accessible toilets" at stations. They remain either locked or are inaccessible. Ramps are slippery, there is no platform to platform connectivity. Wheelchairs are not available easilty at stations. Staff is often missing from "May I help you" counters. There is no awarness in the implementing contractors and engineers. What they consider accessible is actually not accessible.

Perceptions about Accessibility Differ from Actual Accessibility

The simple question- do you involve competent consultants and users to ensure that the end product is fault free? Perceptions of accessibility differ from person to person and this subjectivity kills the design and the usage of end product for the end user in absence of uniform universal design standards being adopted.


Subhash C. Vashishth

To read the news in detail click on links:

Times of India
Travel Biz Monitor