Showing posts with label disabled-friendly facilities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label disabled-friendly facilities. Show all posts

Thursday, May 22, 2014

DoPT issued the Memorandum on Facilities for Govt. Employees for efficient performance of duties

Dear Colleagues,

Please refer to earlier post dated 18 Feb 2014 titled "Guidelines for Comments - Facilities for Govt. Employees with Disabilities for efficient performance of Duties" wherein I had placed before you the draft from the sector and what it became when it went to the DoPT. 

The DoPT has finally notified the draft with some changes vide its OM No.No.36035/3/2013-Estt.(Res) dated 31st March 2014 which are as below:

Accessibility and Barrier free environment at workplace. Following has been added which has improved the earlier draft : 
Lifts/elevators should be made accessible by providing Braille signage and audio outputs. Wherever required, suitable colour contrast may also be made available in buildings, utilities, staircases, etc. for the benefit of low vision employees. 
Special casual leave
In the earlier draft a special casual leave of 15 days mainly for inpatient treatment in CGHS recommended hospitals was given over and above all other leaves/ special casual leaves. However, in the final version, it takes away the leave sought to be granted. It now find mentions only of the existing four days leave in a calendar year for attending medical needs and 10 days leave for attending disability related conferences etc.  thereby defeating the objective of 15 days special leave. This means the section has literally been rendered useless as it doesn't give anything new and only reiterates what was existing earlier.
Guidelines have some positive things too

The guidelines though not close to what we had demanded, are a good beginning since it now gives the employees with disabilities the following facilities as a matter of right among others:

(a) Post recruitment and Pre-promotion Training. 
(b) Provision of aids/ assistive devices
(c) Accessibility & barrier free environment at workplace.
(d) Preference in Govt. Accommodation 
(e) Grievance redressal mechanisms &
(f) Preference in transfer/posting

Download the policy in PDF by clicking the weblink below:

OM No.No.36035/3/2013-Estt.(Res) dated 31st March 2014 titled "Guidelines for providing certain facilities in respect of persons with disabilities who are already employed in Government for efficient performance of their duties



RBI takes one step ahead towards incorporating Universal Design tenets in Banking System

Dear Colleagues,
Taking a step ahead towards incorporating universal accessibility in Banking systems, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has mandated today that all new ATMs to be installed by commercial banks from July 2014 onwards would provide audible instructions and Braille keypads to customers,  besides being made accessible for wheelchair users.
The RBI’s directive came on its prior advice to banks through a notification dated 13 April 2009 to make bank branches and ATMs accessible to people with disabilities and make at least one-third of the new ATMs installed as talking ATMs with Braille keypads.
RBI has now mandated that all Banks  will have to take necessary steps to provide all existing ATMs / future ATMs with ramps so that wheelchair users / persons with disabilities can easily access them. Care is also to be taken to make arrangements in such a way that the height of the ATMs do not create an impediment in their use by wheelchair users. 
Wherever,  it is impracticable to provide such ramp facilities, whether permanently fixed to earth or otherwise, this requirement may be dispensed with, for reasons recorded and displayed in branches or ATMs concerned.
In addition to the above, magnifying glasses should also be provided in all bank branches for the use of persons with low vision, wherever they require for carrying out banking transactions with ease.
The bank branches should display at a prominent place notice about the availability of magnifying glasses and other facilities available for persons with disabilities.
“It is, therefore, reiterated that banks should make all new ATMs installed from July 1, 2014, as talking ATMs with Braille keypads,” RBI said in a notification.
RBI also wants the Banks to lay down a road map for converting all existing ATMs as talking ATMs with Braille keypads and the same  be reviewed from time to time.

Related news:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Guidelines for Comments - Facilities for Govt. Employees with Disabilities for efficient performance of duties

Dear Colleagues,

Some of you would know that the Office of Chief Commissioner - Disabilities had organised a workshop titled "Consultative Workshop for framing draft guidelines for creation of non-disabling work environment for Government Employees with Disabilities to enable them to function smoothly in Government service."  on 28 May 2013 at IIC, Delhi. 

After the day long deliberations, wherein delegates from the disability sector, NGOs, government employees, national institutes etc.  participated. I had the opportunity to compile the draft on behalf of the CCPD office which was subsequently sent to the DoPT. Click here for a copy of the said draft hereinafter called CCPD's June 2013 Draft

Now, almost after 8 months, the DoPT has come out with the final version of the document titled "Guidelines for providing certain facilities in respect of persons with disabilities who are already employed in Govt. for efficient performance of their duties" dated 14th Feb 2014 which is also uploaded on their website inviting comments from Ministries/ Departments. Click here for a copy of the said DoPT draft dt 14 Feb 14

I can with reasonable credibility, having been a participant at the CCPD's Workshop on 28 May 2013, and having contributed and compiled the CCPD's draft can safely conclude today that the draft has been diluted to a great extent. Despite that, I belief notification of the guidelines is a good step and it will not only help integrating employees with disabilities at workplace in govt but also and offer guidance to private players. However, here is a brief evaluation of the guideline.

Good things that have been accepted in the DoPT draft:
  1. Placing the employee with an experienced employee for at least a month on resuming responsibilities of a post - that will allow him to pick up required skills to perform the job and also explore the adaptations needed in individual cases.
  2. Provision of assistive devices/ aids - good quality assistive devices, special chairs, software etc to improve the efficiency has been accepted in principle with a review every three years for upgraded versions. It requires the departments to provide for the cost of equipment or its reimbursement to the employee.
  3. Special casual leave of 15 days per annum - mainly for inpatient treatment in CGHS.  I hope this is in addition to the existing sick leaves and all other leaves.
  4. Every ministry/department to arrange training in "Disability Equality and Etiquette" for their liaison officers in consultation with CCPD. 
Some glaring issues that are visible on a cursory reading in the DoPT draft are:
  1. At the outset, the document doesn't come across as a rights giving document, it looks more like a doles giving document to the employees with disabilities.
  2. There are no budgetary provisions made nor there is any system that does need assessment of employees with disabilities. Hence the entire "amenities" are likely to be more subjective.
  3. It is seeking comments from ministries and not from general public or associations of employees with disabilities.
  4. It gives no legal sanctity to the disabled employee unions to discuss their issues as mandated by the UNCRPD.
  5. When compared with the CCPD draft,  you will realise how 21 page draft has been reduced in to 4 pager policy. This has resulted in either things getting  left out or made so vague that hence it may be difficult to seek its implementation.
  6. It misses out the reasonable accommodations needed for employees with disabilities to perform to the fullest.
  7. Due to limited applicability, it is feared by some quarters that it may not help employees in Banks etc. though I feel these would be equally applicable to scheduled banks as well who are under Min. of Finance. 
  8. Also it is not indicated as a guiding document for the State governments who do not even recognise the identification list of the union of india as a guiding document. 
  9. The DoPT has sought comments from the ministries and is likely to be finalized without any final involvement of the stakeholders..... which is against the basic theme of UNCRPD - "nothing about us without us". That is what the government had done even with the RPD Bill 2013 when it was quietly pushed in to parliament in utmost secrecy without involving the stakeholders.
  10. In the Identification of jobs, there is inherent bias visible in the guidelines when  it says that each ministry ..... should identify the types of jobs which could be easily performed by them specially for group B, C & D...... Why should Group A be excluded? Do that think that disabled employees can not do the jobs of Group A?
Conclusion


I am leaving it to you to compare the two drafts available on the links above, and see for yourself how can a well meaning document be turned into a weak policy document nurtured with a charity mindset!

Here is the coverage in The Hindu on the subject today:


18 Feb 2014, AARTI DHAR

Proposals include preferences in transfers, postings and accommodation, reimbursement for assistive devices and special casual leave

The Central government has come up with a set of draft guidelines on providing certain facilities to its employees with disabilities to help them perform their duties efficiently.

The guidelines, released on Monday, include proposals such as preferences in transfers, postings and accommodation, reimbursement for assistive devices and special casual leave. Additionally, all ministries and departments, subordinate offices, PSUs, government companies, and cantonment boards would also have to identify the type of jobs that such employees may easily perform.

As far as possible, persons with disabilities will be exempted from rotational transfer and will be allowed to continue in the same job where they would have achieved the desired performance. Preference in place of posting at the time of transfer or promotion may be given to the persons with disability.

The induction training — an essential component of an employee’s service requirement — of all employees should take place together. Job-specific post-recruitment and pre- promotion training programmes are required to be organised for persons with disabilities.

The guidelines instruct ministries and departments to provide or reimburse, within a specific time frame, the cost of special assistive devices in accordance with the prices fixed by them in consultation with various national institutes specialising in disability care.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Inaccessibility keeps students away from Colleges in Coimbatore

Dear Colleagues,

This seems to be the condition in most Indian Institutions including the Delhi University wherein even the minimum seats reserved the students with disabilities go vacant each year. In Delhi Univeristy alone roughly close to 500 students take admissions against the 1500 reserved seats for the students with disabilities and even this number gets reduced due to drop outs who do not find accommodation or have problem of transportation. 

In the instant case in Coimbatore, it is not because the students with disabilities  are not interested in pursuing higher education that seats remain vacant, but because the institutions do not provide an environment conducive to them.

Even those who choose to pursue higher education are those with lesser percentage of disability.  Therefore, reservation of seats in higher education for the disabled is of no consequence if the physical infrastructure (of institutions/ hostels) & the transportation systems to reach institutions are not inclusive and barrier free!  Here is the news from The Hindu:

Lack of facilities keeps differently abled away from Coimbatore's educational institutions : Coimbatore

AMUTHA KANNAN

Focus on use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), to ensure differently abled lead an inclusive life, has stolen the attention from the real difficulties they face from the physical barriers. This is significant from the representations they have time and again made demanding a barrier-free environment.

While, most differently abled have easy use of audio-visual aids, equipment, computers and softwares to assist them, what remains elusive is the physical access to various places by virtue of these not being disabled-friendly. This is in terms of absence of ramps, lifts to accommodate wheel chairs, modified washrooms, etc. This becomes critical when these places are schools / colleges / universities. 

This year, only a few higher education institutions have been able to admit students under the three per cent quota for the differently abled. Out of these, only a handful of colleges have admitted students in double digits. And, this is not because those with disability are not interested in pursuing higher, but because the institutions do not provide an environment conducive to them.

Even those who choose to pursue higher education are those with lesser percentage of disability.

Persons with disability of 70 per cent and above, and others who are confined to wheel chairs do not prefer to go to colleges because the infrastructure is not suited to their condition.

Though there is an Act – The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 – to ensure equal opportunities, higher education still remains a distant dream.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has schemes to provide grants for creating facilities in colleges that are 2 (f) and 12 (B) approved, and universities, but since the institutions do not take interest in applying for these, the schemes go unused.

But the recent State Government Order Ms. No. 21 (Tamil Nadu Urban Local Bodies Rules 2013 of February 1, 2013), the implementation of which comes with a time frame of 180 days, has brought some hope. The G.O. calls for making public and multi-storeyed buildings disabled-friendly in six months.

R. Rajendran, Principal of PSG College of Arts and Science, says, “The college has used the grant from UGC under the XI Fiver Year Plan, along with its own funds, to make existing buildings disabled friendly. Work is going on in phases to put up ramps, modify washrooms, etc. Some washrooms are already in use.”

More than 90 differently abled applied here for UG admission and the college admitted nearly 40 students based on eligibility and three per cent quota.

Visually challenged, and those who are hearing and speech impaired prefer to go to institutions that are exclusive for persons like them. However, there are only special schools and not colleges to accommodate them.

Nevertheless, Nithya Ramachandran, Deputy Joint Director, Sankara College of Arts and Science, says the college admits those with hearing and speech impairment.

“Special infrastructure, aids and faculty have been arranged to cater to these students. It requires special effort to provide them with an atmosphere that is conducive to study,” she says.

On colleges constructing infrastructure suited to the differently-abled, Ms. Ramachandran says that self-financing colleges do not get any provision from any source for taking up such activities.

Though the UGC provides grants, these are restricted only to colleges that have been approved under Sections 2 (f) and 12 (B) and not those recognised under Section 2 (l), which are not declared fit to receive central assistance.


Monday, March 4, 2013

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.

HURDLES IN STATIONS

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