Hundreds of physically challenged persons and people working for their uplift filled the Town Hall on Thursday, which is observed as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. However, the venue itself was not friendly for persons with disability. Several wheelchair-bound participants, who were honoured for their achievements in life, had to be physically carried on to the stage. Several people had to stand throughout the programme, as many of the chairs in the last few rows were broken.

Despite the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, stipulating that all public buildings must be built free of barriers for persons with disabilities, the Town Hall itself posed several hurdles to them. U.T. Khader, MLA, said that the Town Hall did not have proper ramps or special toilets for such persons. “On this day, we are all talking about how society should be sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities. But look at this building — it indicates the larger state of affairs in our society,” he said. Responding to the issue separately, Town Planning Officer of the Mangalore Urban Development Authority Balakrishna Gowda told The Hindu, “According to the new Master Plan for the city adopted in October, every new public building will have to be disabled-friendly.”

He said that moves were on to provide for modification of the existing government buildings, such as the Mangalore City Corporation to make them disabled-friendly.

Mr. Khader said at the programme that a grave injustice was being meted out to disabled people in the distribution of ration cards. “Hundreds of disabled persons are being given above poverty line cards because the enumerators club their income with the income of their family members. While distributing ration cards, income of the disabled persons alone should be considered,” he said.

Calling for greater sensitivity from bus owners, he said that they should try and make some arrangements for the easy entry of persons with disabilities into the vehicles. “It is sometimes difficult even for normal persons to get into some buses,” he said.

Speaking to this correspondent on the sidelines of the event, president of the Dakshina Kannada Angavikalara Sangha Dinesh Shetty said, “We want to reiterate our demand for reservation of a few seats in Parliament as well as in the State Assembly for persons with disabilities.”

Vice-president of the sangha Madhava Ullal said, “We have been demanding that a special residential training institute be set up in the district to provide vocational training to persons with disabilities. We hope the district administration will consider our demand in the coming year.”