Postal orders may be the favoured choice of most Right to Information (RTI) applicants, but when it comes to accessing the post offices, many of them and in particular, those who are differently-abled suffer great difficulty. This has been highlighted by a RTI activist and a practising doctor Satendra Singh through a series of responses he obtained from the Department of Posts.
Dr. Singh, who is an Assistant Professor with University College of Medical Sciences of Delhi University and works at Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital in North-East Delhi, himself suffers from polio and uses calliper support for mobility.
Talking to The Hindu, he said it was as in-charge of the Enabling Unit at the hospital that he was told by various students about the problems they encountered in entering post offices that made him pursue the matter. “The post office in our campus is on the first floor and is not easily approachable. So I initially lodged a complaint with the Medical Superintendent of GTB Hospital about the issue and then took to filing RTI applications to learn more about the apathy towards this subject.”
Dr. Singh said the issue pertains not only to the differently-abled but also to the elderly as they are the ones who use the post offices the most for getting their pensions or sending money orders.
Dr. Singh said when he requested the postal department to give data about ease of accessibility of various post offices for the disabled, the South division claimed that 65 of its 67 post offices were “barrier-free”. It also claimed that “ramps have been constructed for free movement of wheelchairs” and “height of all the counters has been lowered for easy access”.
Similarly, he said, the West division, too, claimed “all the post offices of this division are easily accessible and barrier-free”.
“However, this is completely different from the ground situation in many places where disabled people, like me, find it difficult to access without any ramps or so,” said Dr. Singh.
He said in East Delhi, the response had revealed that six post offices were not accessible to all persons with disabilities and this included the GTB Hospital PO.
Dr. Singh noted that the responses also admitted that in most post offices there was “no facility for PwD to access at the first floor”. Stating that his goal was to sensitise the masses, he said, this year’s theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities too was “removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”.
However, in Delhi, as also elsewhere, he said India’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities has made little impact as even the Capital city was yet to adopt the universal design for its various buildings in order to make them fully accessible. “Even one hurdle along the way can obstruct a PwD or elderly person’s approach to a building.”