The Indian government has rolled-out its 'Accessible India' campaign, with a motive to make it convenient for 'Persons with Disabilities' (PwDs) to ease the access of administrative buildings and transport among other things.
The 'Accessible India' campaign' is for achieving universal accessibility for all citizens including persons with disabilities. With firm commitment of the government towards socio-economic transformation (Swavlamban) of the PwDs by year 2020, there is an urgent need to create mass awareness for promoting and implementing universal accessibility.
A joint venture has been formed between the Department of Empowerment of PwDs and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment plan to implement the 'Accessible India' campaign in seven states including Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Assam, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Haryana.
Four cities from Maharashtra - Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik - will be part of the national accessibility campaign to develop disabled-friendly public facilities in the first phase.
“At least 50 identified buildings in metros will be made fully accessible to persons with disabilities via retrofitting of ramps, disabled-friendly lifts, toilets as well as signages. In addition, 75 important railway stations and key domestic airports will be made fully accessible for the disabled by July 2016.” Thawar Chand Gehlot, Union minister for social justice and empowerment said.
Universal accessibility means... enabling PwDs to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life. It ensures equal access on an equal basis with others, in the physical environment, transportation, Information and Communication and all public services and facilities.
What services should be provided to PwDs?
Under section 44, 45 and 46 of the PwDs Act 1995, apart from the non-discrimination factor, the states are required to provide for:
i) Ramps in public buildings
ii) Provision of toilets for wheelchair users
iii) Braille symbols and auditory signals in lifts
iv) Ramps in hospitals, primary health centers and other rehabilitation centers.
What are the India plans...
Under the 'Accessible India' campaign the government plans to make 50-100 government buildings in each state accessible in the next one year. The Centre also aims to make airports and railway stations accessible, it targets to convert almost 25 per cent of government-owned public transport into fully accessible carriers by mid-2017.
The Department of Empowerment of PwDs is collaborating with Ministry of Home, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Tourism for creating accessible police stations, hospitals and tourism across the country. The Department is also coordinating with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for enhancing accessibility of Television programmes by incorporating features like captioning, text to speech and audio description.
India's seven initiatives...
- To audit and convert up to 100 government buildings into fully accessible by July 2016.
- Conduct awareness workshops for key stakeholders, including builders and activists.
- A web portal for people to upload pictures and comment on the accessibility of any building.
- Plans to introduce set-top boxes to make TV programmes more useful for the visually impaired.
- Sign languages to be introduced in more than 25 per cent of the programmes, starting with Doordarshan.
- Content on government website will also be converted from text to speech mode through screen reader programmes for the visually impaired.
- A mobile app for providing information on disabled-friendly public utilities.
PwDs in numbers
As per the census data, 2.21 per cent of India has some disability (or at least 21 million Indians). This, however, is an under reported number because the current law accepts only seven disabilities and secondly, many families don’t declare disabled family members as there is a huge social stigma attached.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a 2011 study estimated that 15.3 per cent of the world’s population deals with some or the other kind of disability, India’s disabled population clearly lies somewhere between these two numbers.