There are unaddressed concerns such as developing skid-free surfaces for the visually challenged

The awareness for providing access for the disabled in public buildings notwithstanding, their needs are overlooked at times, even during events organised for their benefit.

Recently, the Tamil Nadu Udavikkaram Association for the Welfare of Differently-Abled organised a special session for builders. Two of them who had developed barrier-free environments were honoured.

At the venue though, there was no ramp to enter the hall but one installed to reach the dais easily. Wheelchair-user T.A.P. Varadakutti, president of the Association, even admitted to this.

Inaccessibility of toilets is another major issue for people like him. “We organised the programme along with Exnora to motivate builders and get them to understand these issues. We have a problem in (using) steps and toilets,” said Mr. Varadakutti. The Association will document the works of those who create barrier-free environments, he said.

After the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority modified its development control rules, focusing on access to buildings, changes have come about, most notably, in lifts, toilets and ramps in new buildings. But more needs to be done, said Mr. Varadakutti.

According to V.K. Jeyakodi, commissioner for the differently abled, “We have spent Rs. 4.38 crore on facilities like lifts and disabled-friendly toilets. We have written to the Union government and sought another Rs. 3.6 crore to complete the process.”

Persons with disability said private and public buildings, be they malls or hospitals, have a long way to go. Though private malls have installed toilets with facilities for disabled persons, they are often locked.

Wheelchair-user Erode K.S. Nagaraj has a photograph of a toilet for the disabled, at a mall in Vadapalani, which has been converted into a storeroom. “I went to the mall’s website and filed the feedback form. But I am yet to hear from them,” he said.

Creating ramps and suitable toilets is just one issue. There are other unaddressed concerns such as developing skid-free surfaces and user-friendly facilities for visually-challenged persons, according to organisations working for the welfare disabled persons.

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