2 December 2016
A differently-abled man stands at the enquiry section at Sarwate bus
stand in Indore. (Shankar Mourya/HT Photo)
 
http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/tale-of-3-cities-disabled-friendly-tag-ahead-but-work-remains/story-BzooGbx4iToTHwDB52H7MK.html
A barrier-free environment is crucial for Divyanshu Jain, 27. Being
differently-abled has always posed challenges for the sales
professional in a software company. “I commute on my tricycle and
don’t like to depend on anybody for anything. If I get a barrier-free
environment, or as many like to say disability-friendly, half of my
woes will be solved,” said Jain.

So, has Indore city actually become barrier-free? HT accompanied Jain
for a reality check.

At the city’s railway station, ramps have been constructed on some
platforms, but it’s a fair distance from the main platform to a ramp
and most differently abled people end up using the stairs instead.
“The ramp constructed under Rajkumar bridge is very far. Also, there
is no way to move between platforms 2 and 3. Most of the times, as I
use a crutch, I end up taking the stairs. For people who are not able
to walk even a bit, it’s a problem,” said Jain.


“I commute on my tricycle and don’t like to depend on anybody for
anything. If I get a barrier-free environment, or as many like to say
disability-friendly, half of my woes will be solved.”


Provision has been made for wheelchair facility, but work on easing
the difficulties of the visually impaired will be taken up in the next
phase, said officials.

The inter-state bus stand at Sarwate had wheelchairs. “We keep a
couple of wheelchairs. The moment somebody does an enquiry, we give
them the wheelchair and ensure that a coolie accompanies them,” said
an official at the enquiry wing of the bus stop.

However, no ramp or designated spots for sitting are present. “People
usually vacate their spots as soon as they feel somebody needs it,”
the official added.

The place remains a challenge for the visually impaired in the absence
of charts in Braille as well as a facility for announcing bus timings.
Jain said, “This is a very difficult spot for the visually impaired.
There are no designated pathways for them to walk. It cannot be termed
barrier-free.”




Highlights
•15.5 lakh differently-abled people in Madhya Pradesh, according to
the 2011 Census report.
•78,761 differently-abled people in Indore, the second highest in the
state after Bhopal.


Maharaja Yeshwantrao (MY) Hospital, central India’s biggest government
hospital, had a ramp at the entrance, but going from one place to
another within the facility still poses a problem.

“I often go to MY Hospital for blood donation and find it quite
difficult to commute from one place to another. Ramps are not there
everywhere. Also the distance from the parking to the ramp is quite
far,” said Jain.

Mahendra Singh, 23, who is unable to use crutches, said, “I have to
crawl from the parking to the ramp to approach for a wheelchair. It is
not possible to bring an attendant every time. What is the point of
stating a place to be barrier-free if we have to bring someone with us
every time?”

Asked about the points raised by Jain and Singh, Indore collector P
Narhari said, “We have improved the situation immensely. Ramps have
been erected at places which had none.”


“I have to crawl from the parking to the ramp to approach for a
wheelchair. It is not possible to bring an attendant every time. What
is the point of stating a place to be barrier-free if we have to bring
someone with us every time?”


He added, “Our focus this time was on three things — constructing
ramps and making wheelchairs available; making essential facilities
such as water available, so we installed taps in areas built at low
height for easy access, and toilets were also covered in this section;
finally, signboards and signals for providing easy access to
information.”

He said in the second phase of work, the focus would be on making
information available in Braille and using audio messages at all
places for the visually impaired.

Jhalawar, Rajasthan

A lot has been done but more barriers need to be removed, according to
differently-abled persons in Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara
Raje’s home district.

Polio-affected Kesri Lal Bairwa, 40, a ration shop dealer, said he
used to face difficulty climbing the stairs of Atal Seva Kendra, but
construction of ramps and railings had made access easier.



Kesri Lal Bairwa walking on a newly constructed disabled-friendly ramp
and railing at Atal Sewa Kendr in Jhalawar. (AH Zaidi/ HT Photo)

Other government buildings with ramps and railings at entrances in
Jhalawar include the mini-secretariat and hospitals. The
mini-secretariat and court have lifts as well. A few months ago, two
residential schools were started in the district for speech and
hearing impaired children, and for children with learning
disabilities.

Jhalawar collector Dr Jitendra Kumar Soni, who initiated a drive for a
barrier-free environment for differently-abled persons, said ramps and
railing facilities had been made mandatory in all new government
buildings. He added that around 2,000 ramps and railings had been
constructed.




Highlights
•14.1 lakh differently-abled people in Rajasthan, according to the
2011 Census report.
•21,285 differently-abled people in Jhalawar.


Barriers, however, remain at some places. Abdul Majeed Khan, 50, whose
right leg has been amputated, said several offices and banks need to
get ramps, railings and lifts.

Soni said some old buildings had limited space and posed practical
problems in easing access. “We are planning to start kiosks for the
differently-abled on the ground floor of such buildings by January 26
next year.”

Kannur, Kerala

North Kerala’s Kannur was declared the country’s first
disabled-friendly district earlier this year under a project named
‘Barrier-Free Kannur’. The project, launched in 2015, was the
brainchild of former district collector Balakiran and saw 1,842 public
institutions acquire a barrier-free environment. All institutions and
public offices were equipped with steel railings, slope on the ramp to
use wheelchairs, grooved tile surfaces for the visually challenged and
display boards in Braille script. Additionally, special parking lots
were earmarked for the differently-abled. The initiatives are now
backed by awareness drives.

Work under the project was completed in 10 months. Mir Mohammed Ali,
Kannur district collector now, said, “Initially people asked why these
changes. When we explained the need they came around easily. Some of
the private institutions also followed suit. This will also help
elderly people.”




Highlights
•7.6 lakh differently-abled people in Kerala, according to 2011 Census report.
•57,831 differently-abled people in Kannur.


Users say they feel the difference now. Earlier K Raghu, an upper
division clerk at the district collectorate, used to take 20 minutes
to climb steps to reach his second-storey office building. He has
stunted growth. “I had to struggle to reach office every morning and
remain there till evening fearing exhaustion. With new lift and other
facilities I come down for lunch easily. I feel life has become much
lighter these days,” he said adding that new toilets with easier
access were a real boon.

Of the 40,000 workforce across 2,018 institutions of the district,
nearly 12% are differently-abled.



-- 
Avinash Shahi
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU


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