Mumbai: The Indian government has asked each state to identify 50-100 public buildings in major cities to be made easily accessible for people with disabilities under the ambitious “Accessible India Campaign,” also known as “Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan.”
Speaking at the inauguration of a daylong workshop on accessibility in Mumbai on Thursday, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawarchand Gehlot, said the identified buildings will then be made fully accessible to people with disabilities via retrofitting of ramps, disabled friendly lifts, toilets as well as signages. In addition, 75 important railway stations as well as all domestic airports will be made fully accessible by July 2016.
He said the government was working with renewed vigour to implement policies drawn up for the benefit of persons with disabilities. “The campaign has ambitious targets with well defined timelines and we have sought cooperation of all the states in implementing it.”
The minister said the Centre has drawn up a plan to identify at least 50 most important public buildings in 26 major cities and state capitals and at least 25 buildings in 22 other cities and capitals of smaller states and Union Territories. Four cities in Maharashtra, namely Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik, figure in the list of cities for the campaign.
Of the 26.8 million persons with disabilities in the country, less than half have been provided with disability certificates. “The thrust is on inclusiveness. The present problem with the disability certificate is that it is not universally recognised. A certificate issued in one district or state is not recognised in another state or district,” he observed. To overcome this problem, the minister stated that the government has decided to issue Universal Identity Cards having an Unique Number to them within 18 months.
The minister also said that the present definition of disability was not inclusive enough as it covered only seven types of disabilities and that the government has decided to increase the number of disabilities to 19.
Speaking on the occasion, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the governments had the primary responsibility of creating an accessible environment for persons with disabilities and though there were many laws and policies to protect their rights, the implementation was from satisfactory.
Meanwhile, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities is in the process of creating a mobile app along with a web portal for crowdsourcing the requests regarding inaccessible places. With the app, any person would be able to click a photo or video of an inaccessible place and upload it to the ‘Accessible India’ portal.
The portal will process the request for access audit, financial sanction and final retrofitting of the building to make it completely accessible.
In another case, a low cost disabled friendly bus identification system, ‘On Board,’ for visually impaired has been developed by Professor M Balakrishnan of IIT Delhi.
It is a radio frequency based system having two modules — one for the bus and the other for the user. The user initiates a query for the bus route number by pressing a switch. The device speaks out numbers of buses arriving. A selection switch is pressed on the module upon hearing the desired number. The bus responds with audio cue to let the person board independently. More than 250 successful trials have been made of ‘On Board’ on BEST buses in Mumbai.