Showing posts with label awareness raising. Show all posts
Showing posts with label awareness raising. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Comedian with Disability committed to disability awareness: Maysoon Zayid

Dear Friends,

I am greatly impressed by the eloquence of this Palestinian woman from New Jersey Ms. Maysoon Zayid - a writer, actor, comedian and co-founder of New York Arab-American Comedy Festival.

She shatters the myths and stereotypes associated with persons with disabilities in no time and you can not but return much more sensitized and knowledgeable about yourself, about your own beliefs about persons with disabilities and their abilities.

I am sure you would love to see this embeded video herein below:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reality check of Accessiblity at Post Office: Lodi Road

Dear Friends,

Please refer to my earlier post - Post offices in Delhi are inaccessible but Department claims otherwise, incorporating media coverage on pathetic situation prevailing in the Post Offices of Delhi and the awareness level of the senior officials of the Department of Post on the Accessibility.

I had a reality check of accessibility status of the post office at Jor Bagh in the NDMC area which claims to be better off then most MCD controlled areas when it comes to accessibility in the public infrastructure.

The reality check /access audit  photos speak for themselves here:

Picture of the Lodi Road Post Office Signage
This Lodi Road Post Office is in a posh colony of South Delhi under
the New Delhi Municipal Council.

Picture of road side eatery blocking the pedestrian pathway
This protruding counter of this eatery on the pedestrian pathway
leading to the post office blocks the pedestrian movement 
Photo showing absence of kerb ramp on the pedestrian pathway leading to post office
The pedestrian pathway leading to the Post Office
doesn't have a kerb ramp or kerb cut. 

Photo showing decked up entrance with offers of 7% off on gold coins but access blocked by barriers
The Gate at the post office fails to welcome me. The barriers
and the huge kerb stare at me!

photo showing blocked access
These barriers purportedly placed to stop entry of vehicles also act
as barrier to my independent mobility, thereby nullifying the benefits
of the ramps provided!

photo showing ramp without handrails
From the entrance two slope ramps like a U are provided but
with no handrails or signage!

Ramp ends with a thud without and tactile indication. The ramp
edge is a trip hazard on both ends.

Similarly the other side of the ramp has no handrails  and
ends with an threshold which is a trip hazard.

Photo showing stepped entry to post office, high counters and use of granite flooring which is slippery
Entrance 1 is stepped and granite has been used in the post office
which makes it slippery and inaccessible to the visitors with disabilities.

Entrance 2 is also stepped with a similar pattern. The counter height
on both sides is inaccessible to those with disabilities and
caters to only standing persons.
When the reality check at the prominent areas under NDMC is so alarming what do we expect of the other post offices in Delhi, especially the ones in the areas served by MCD where the civil amenities are even more pathetic. This is in gross violation of the prevalent norms of barrier free environment.

Another reality check coming week in an area served by MCD !

SC Vashishth

Monday, October 29, 2012

Post Offices in Delhi are inaccessible but Deptt. claims otherwise

29 October 2012,

NEW DELHI: Gulmohar Park's post office exists in the basement of DDA market, down a flight of stairs in a structure with no ramps or lift. That, however, hasn't deterred the south division of the India Post from declaring it "barrier-free" in its reply to an RTI enquiry filed by Dr Satyendra Singh, professor of physiology at University College of Medical Sciences and doctor at GTB Hospital.

Singh, himself disabled, filed a query under RTI Act in July requesting information from the postal department on the levels of accessibility at Delhi post offices. The reply is worrying as many first-floor post offices have no lifts and many of those declared "barrier-free" have stairs leading to them.

South division claims 65 of their 67 post offices (including Gulmohar Park's), are "barrier-free". The ones at Chittaranjan Park and Kailash Colony, it admits, are on the first floor "without any facility of lift". South division also claims that "ramps have been constructed for free movement of wheelchairs" and "height of all the counters has been lowered for easy access".

West division, too, claims "all the post offices of this division are easily accessible and barrier-free". "The two post offices in Rajouri Garden are both on the ground floor. The one in Janta Market has a very high pavement in front of it and the one in the main market is on a narrow and potholed bylane frequently flooded by sewage water and is slippery. A visually-impaired person can't reach that one," says Singh. The postal department didn't reply to his queries immediately but responded only after a first appeal was filed.

Singh travels 10 kilometers to Vasundhara, Ghaziabad, to send a speed post as the post offices closer to home all are inaccessible. "We only have impairments, it's the society which makes us disabled," he says.

North division runs 81 post offices of which 14 are above ground-floor or occupy multiple-floors. As per the division's own admission, "there is no provision of lifts in any post office building". However, the division had written to the executive engineer, postal civil division, for providing assistance as per the Disability Act, in seven post offices (including Ashok Vihar, Civil Lines, Malka Ganj and Rohini Sector 7) first in January 2009 and again in July and September, 2010, "but the needful has not been done yet". Southwest division runs 60 post offices, mostly from rented buildings, and 46 of them don't have ramps for wheelchairs. None of the post offices in the southwest division are on the first floor.

In central division, four post offices are operating from first-floors, "without having the lift" or any "separate arrangement for the people with disability". East division, too, states that "no post office under this division is with the facility of lift" and "no facilities were provided" for people with disability on POs above ground-floor. They say that barring seven post offices (at Krishna Nagar, Azad Nagar, Old Seemapuri, Mayur Vihar, Shahdaramandi, Gandhi Nagar Bazar and GTB Hospital), the rest of their 62 offices are "accessible to all persons with disabilities". Apparently, the stairs (without even handrails) at the PO in Jhilmil Industrial Area are not a barrier.

In the first question, Singh had sought "accessibility status" and explained what he meant by adding parenthetically, "whether accessible/barrier-free or not to persons with disabilities". In reply to this query, the office of the director, General Post Office, informs, "The GPO is centrally located and it is, therefore, accessible for all".

4 November 2012

KOLKATA, 4 NOV: Dr Satendra Singh travels kilometres to post letters, even though there is a post office on the campus of the hospital where he works. “I don't like to tell people, you do this for me,” he said.

Dr Singh, who had polio which left him disabled, is an assistant professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi. He said he had sent many letters to the hospital superintendent to tell him that the on-campus post office couldn't be easily accessed by him, but didn't get a reply.

Starting to think about accessibility elsewhere also, Dr Singh said, “I decided I should know the status of all the post offices in the Capital of the nation.” A series of RTI responses show that many post offices in the Capital lack the facilities that would bring them in line with the country's obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he said.

The Delhi East Division office's response listed seven of the post offices in their zone that are not accessible, for example. The Central Division said, “as per records no such facilities have been provided” in response to his request for details of “all the standard facilities for barrier-free access made available for the Persons with Disability.”

South Division officials said in their response that 65 of their 67 post offices  are “barrier-free”, but two ~ one at Chittaranjan Park and the other at Kailash Colony ~ are on the first floor “without any facility of lift”.

Dr Singh was also surprised that the only complaint about accessibility in post offices had, in fact, been filed by him.

“It is shocking. But I am not only blaming the post offices but also the community that they are just sitting there.” He said, in his opinion, this silence is a sign of real disability. “If somebody is not raising his voice, he is truly a disabled person.” If post offices were made accessible, it wouldn't only help the disabled, he said, but also senior citizens and young children.

Dr Singh was also concerned about the response from the Office of the Director of the General Post Office to the questions asking about the “accessible status” of the New Delhi General Post Office, and specifically “whether it is accessible/barrier-free or not to Persons with Disabilities (PwD)”.

“New Delhi GPO is centrally located, it is therefore accessible to all,” the response said. “They thought accessibility meant connectivity,” said Dr Singh.

“A person at a very senior post is not aware of the definition of accessibility, what about lower people...”.

Source: The Stateman

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Travel Another India: Indian Railways for people with disabilities

Dear Colleagues,

Its very scary for a wheelchair users to travel in Indian Railways despite their tall claims of providing facilities for disabled passengers. The railways is not run professionally, its like a cake / prize which is shared by the political party supporting the Government- thanks to coalition politics.

Railways is too slow in taking any steps and reason given is that it is too huge an organisation. Their conduct shows that they have been least interested in filling up the employment seats reserved for the disabled under the garb that disabled are a threat to security and safety if employed on several posts (which they term as technical or safety posts though there is nothing technical about many of them) until the high court of Delhi ordered them to do so on a petition by AICB.

Currently there is only lip service. There are few officers who are sincere and serious but the overall attitude and systems do not look geared up to think about accessibility as a priority issue! They do things because courts are directing them to do and there is no pro activeness on the part of Railways which is a sad thing.
That they take this issue up on priority, they need to be pushed hard through all means.

Here are some experiences from our dear friend Ms. Shivani Gupta on her travel in Indian Railways. Its scary and indicates all is not well there for disabled people. The answer as the sector feels is not special coaches for disabled but mainstreaming of disability concerns in the mainstream coaches on the basis of universal design so that persons with disabilities could travel with families and not in to secluded "so called coaches for disabled".

It was going to be a train trip for me soon after a long time. I was traveling to Puttaparthi by Karnataka Express for darshan of Sri Satya Sai Baba along with my father who is a staunch devotee.  For a number of people train travels were something to look forward to and enjoyable. In fact they were enjoyable for me to till I became severely disabled having to use a wheelchair. Since I became disabled I tried to avoid train travels as much as possible but considering that it was the most affordable means of travel I was forced to use it on occasions.

My father made the bookings well in advance. The railways gave a considerably large concession on the ticket for the disabled traveler and one escort traveling with them making the travel very cheap. We had heard about a ‘Handicapped Coach’ that the railways had introduced in every train. But it was an unreserved coach so a disabled passenger could not reserve it and as a matter of safety and convenience a disabled person would rarely travels unreserved, therefore this coach was useless for us as it still remains to be for most disabled travelers more at.. Travel Another India: Indian Railways for people with disabilities

Monday, March 19, 2012

Media has a larger role in breaking disability stereotypes

Dear Colleagues,

Here is an article on a workshop conducted by DLU (North East), Shishu Saroti, Guwahati
 on the role of Media vis-a-vis the Disability Sector"  published in The Sentinel. Several such initiatives are needed for most sectors since it is the wrong portrayal of persons with disabilities that reinforces the  age old prejudices and biases. 

Not because it is done intentionally but there is lack of awareness among the masses, the society, the media, the judiciary, the government babus, the medical and para-medical fraternity and above all the  family members of persons with disabilities and worst - persons with disabilities themselves!. Such eye-opening sessions are needed for every one and should be conducted more often in schools & colleges too!  

Media should adopt a rights-based approach rather than a charity approach while reporting about persons with disabilities. — Arman Ali

By our Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, March 17: “People with disabilities are often perceived as different by normal people. They are also discriminated against. This is unfortunate and should not happen. Disabled people too have hopes and aspirations like normal people. They should not be made to feel as if they are different and should be given equal opportunity to move forward in life, like the rest,” said Shishu Sarothi executive director Arman Ali while addressing an orientation programme held in Guwahati today on the topic ‘Role of Media vis-a-vis the Disability Sector’. The programme was organized for mediapersons by the Disability Law Unit- Northeast, Shishu Sarothi.

Ali further said, “The families of disabled persons should accept them with their weaknesses and strengths. A proper environment should be created at home so that they can feel encouraged to pursue their dreams.” He added, “Unfortunately, the government is also not doing enough for the disabled people. It should make provisions for such persons.”
He called upon the media to adopt a rights-based approach rather than a charity approach while reporting about persons with disabilities.

Speaking at the programme, senior journalist Prabal Das said, “In India, even though social and humanitarian issues get written about in newspapers and magazines, the disability issue has not been highlighted much. Media should portray disability in such a way so as to help increase awareness throughout society about the realities faced by disabled persons, reduce stereotypes, prejudices and harmful practices. Shishu Sarothi, which is building hope among the disabled people, should guide the media on how to portray the disability issue.”
Das lamented the fact that the Indian media usually highlights the disability issue during the Para Olympics.

Disability Law Unit-Northeast assistant project coordinator Amvalika Senapati said that as per the 2001 census, there were 5,30,300 disabled persons in Assam. As per the WHO report, 2011, there are 31,16,927 persons with disabilities in Assam.

She said, “Disability, whether mental or physical, does not disable a person. Discrimination, social stigma and poverty does. The media exerts a powerful influence on the way people with disabilities are perceived. It is important that persons with disabilities that they are portray realistically and that their disabilities are explained accurately.”

Examples of denial of right to education in respect of children with disability in the various districts of Assam, inaccessible public places and empathy of various authorities in implementing the laws and schemes in respect of persons with disabilities was highlighted by her. She highlighted how there were no provisions for disabled persons in railways stations and the ISBT.

During the programme, many points were highlighted. The media, it was said, should raise awareness about the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, bring discussion of disability into the public arena to challenge the idea of it as a taboo subject, promote policies, products and services that support full participation and development of disabled persons, avoid labels like ‘disability’ or ‘mental’ which have negative stereotypes or myths associated with them, allow persons with disabilities to speak for themselves, encourage and to expose common myths about disability.

Source: The Sentinel

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Can a Blind or Visually Impaired Person work as a Judge / Magistrate ?

Dear Friends,

Blind as a judge? Often I face such questions when I raise the issue that why Visually Impaired lawyers and advocates and fresh law graduates are not being considered for the post of Judges. Is it a systemic apartheid or the apathy of the appointing authorities that they do not find blind to be competent to perform the functions of the Judge and take no measures to ensure that the backlog vacancies are cleared by appropriate methods?

Is there any legal or policy level impediment ?

Mind you, there is no impediment in appointment of a blind as a judge or magistrate or a munsif because firstly the post has been identified by Govt. of India, secondly, there is a reservation to the posts for the Blind too! Then why is it that despite passage of The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full participation)Act 1995, Identification of the post of Judge for the blind in the first identification list by Min. of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India in 2001 and now the second identification list of jobs in early 2007, there has not been a single appointment on the posts of Judges? I am sure the 3% reservation for the Disabled (read 1% for VH) has remained unfilled all these years and it is almost 14 years now since the PWD Act came in to being. Why is it so?

Any role models ?

I don't say that we have had no role models as yet in India though not in recent times. I hope many of you remember Shri Sadhan Gupta, the Additional Advocate General in Kolkata who remained Advocate General for almost 7 years who was blind but that did not deter him perform his so important and sensitive job effectively nor did the Government think that he was not competent! There have been several examples world over- to name a few Dr. Hans Eugene Schulze from Germany who retired from judiciary a while back.  Recently Justice Zakeria Mohammed Zak Yacoob from South Africa became judge of the Constitutional Court of South Africa despite his blindness and was recently in India advocating the rights of the Visually Impaired in the society and conducted many workshops organised by Disability Rights Initiative (Human Rights Law Network), India.

The reasons for not seeing Blind as Judges.

On one part I feel it is a failure of system which has made no efforts to sensitize the larger population about the abilities of the Visually Impaired in this era of technology and the power of screen reading softwares that has largely reduced the functional impact of visual disability among the trained blind brethren. I am amazed at the newer technology where use of tongue as an eye is being successfully explored!!

Secondly, the poor quality of education and lack of support in early and higher education is majorly responsible for not seeing many blind candidates passing the LLB exams and then appearing for judiciary tests. Even today, we have no trained teachers in Govt. Schools where visually impaired children are admitted in the name of inclusive education and they are merely passed and promoted to next grades without any effective learning. Schools run by NGOs are doing good work but have limitation of resources. A few run with Govt. Grants have many teaching posts vacant for past several years in Delhi alone. This needs immediate attention.

No access to technology and costly gadgets also increases the impact of disability on the students with blindness. The Government should provide computers and other assistive and enabling technology to the Blind to provide them equal opportunities.

Also, until recently, the Public Service commissions and High Courts did not accept blind as eligible candidates due to lack of awareness. I remember Registrar, Andhra Pradesh and PSC Jharkhand refused to provide any reservation to blind in the judiciary posts when we wrote to them to reserve seats for disabled including blind. I have their letters with me! And now I have learnt that there is an attempt on their part to keep the post of judge away from the blind.

In my view, it is the society (through disabling social infrastructure and rigid social mindsets) that disables the persons with disabilities and doesn't accept the competent candidates with disabilities due to age old biases and pre-conceived notions.

Some news to Cheer about - a New role Model!

However, now such ceilings are being broken and I am delighted at the success of Mr. T T Chakravarthy, a practicing lawyer aged 41 years from Vellore to have broken that ceiling, and setting up himself as a role model for several others who are preparing for the same. Congratulation Mr. Chakravarthy! The story is available at link: Tamil Nadu gets its first blind judical officerIn fact, when the case was pending in the court, very interesting arguments were put forward and a serious debate went on with questions such as what is a handicap? Referring to the half a dozen outstation judges, who were on transfer from other states, the lawyers argued that language was a barrier/handicap to those judges, and that they had to take the help of either a co-judge or the court staff for translation or interpretation! What if the blind judge uses the services of an assistant/scribe! The Bench asked as to how would the blind judge look into the eyes of the accused and assess the demeanour, the argument was that it was an old technique as "looks are deceptive now a days." The bench relented finally and allowed the petitioner to write the examinations.

Also there are favourable trends coming from the Courts of Law. February this year Madras High Court allowed Mr. B. Veerakumar, a blind advocate to write the PSC Examination for the Civil Judge. The detailed story could be read at link: HC to the rescue of blind lawyer.

Thus it would be seen that the change has started coming in the way the society perceives persons with disability. I feel it is all the more important that how people with disability particularly those with visual impairments think about themselves.

Reading between the lines

While it might be easier to say that a judge with visual impairment/blindness should be appointed, it should be kept in mind that posting such person even at his own merit on the posts to perform his duties without appropriate assistive devices and making available the necessary gadgets and technology is not going to help any one. On the contrary,  it would be a discouragement and a blow to the high spirits of the person with visual impairment as they may not be able to prove themselves in such a hostile environment. And then the competence of these candidates would be generalized to say that  blind persons are not effective in discharge of duties expected from a judge/magistrate hence they should not be appointed.  Also, if someone is able to somehow do well without government assistance (read- at his own cost), I fear such roles models might collapse under the high hopes that society has from them. The Media which is covering their success in Bold Letters on front pages today will soon highlight the failures too if such support of assistive devices and gadgets was not provided to enable them. This would be in simple terms " Reasonable Accommodation" which will provide them a "level playing field". Now this is their right in light of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities!

Secondly, acceptance and moral support from the seniors and subordinate staff is also needed to assimilate the new entrants in the system. Hence, efforts to sensitize the workforce, especially the assistants, clerks, stenos, other judicial officers, Orderlies should be taken up on priority within departments.

The Road Ahead

We need to overhaul the system that disables.
  • We have a ministry called Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India which itself seem to be overpowered with other issues plaguing it like issues of Minorities and Dalits and there is neither time nor expertise to do justice to the subject called disability despite some sensitivities. This calls for an urgent need to create a separate ministry for handling the issues related to the Disabled persons in India or at least a separate Independent Department.
  • The visually impaired candidates should be encouraged to take up law as a subject and supported in preparation for their Exams for entering judiciary the way Govt. provides coaching and other supports to the candidates from SC/ST to prepare for IAS and UPSC examinations. NGOs could be roped in for the purpose and Legal Services Authority could also play an active role.
  • A regular sensitization and awareness raising of the society at all levels and setting more role models from amongst the disabled should be first priority.
  • Followed by an affirmative action to implement the existing laws and policies.
  • Education, Skill Development and exposure to the latest technology to improve the functional capabilities should be the prime focus.
  • People with disability on their part should stop seeking doles and enhance their core competencies to be an equal member in economy.
  • The public infrastructure especially the courts, systems should be made accessible to people with disabilities.
How a Blind judge would perform better
  • Provide him Talking software and gadgets with a personal lap top.
  • The petitions, applications, written statements, replications/rejoinders, affidavit etc should be field in e-format also along with hard copies.
  • All evidential documents/ photocopies, even if legible should be compulsorily submitted in typed in double spacing and e-format. This is already being done in High Courts and Supreme Court as the judges are elderly and have low eye-sights!!
  • All documents in regional languages can also be either translated in English or Hindi and placed before the judge in print and E-format - as is done in High Courts already!
  • The Legal Library attached to the Courts should have e-text version of all the legal books and reference books which the Judge can refer to.
  • Similarly Case laws, digests, AIR etc are now a days available in CDs and can be made available to the judges.
What is needed is an open mind and then every thing is possible! I am looking forward to days when such a system is put in place and we see Judges with Visual Impairments and other disabilities performing their functions efficiently without any barrier - attitudinal, social, physical or technological!

Warm regards
Subahsh Chandra Vashishth
Advocate,  Consultant-Disability Rights