With not a single medical institution in India being completely accessible for persons with disabilities due to physical barriers in libraries, lecture halls and hospital campus, the Medical Council of India has now issued directions to the Deans/Principals of all the medical colleges/institutions in India to submit compliance report on access facilities for persons with disabilities directly to the office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD).

The MCI issued the notice on a petition by Dr. Satendra Singh, Coordinator with the Enabling Unit of the Equal Opportunity Cell of the University College of Medical Sciences, here.

Dr. Singh had made a representation to CCPD to include ‘access audits’ in all inspections by the MCI and to derecognise all such hospitals that fail this test.

He had also submitted that while the MCI ensured reservation for persons with lower limbs extremities of 50 per cent to 70 per cent, for admission in all the medical courses, a number of medical institutions were completely inaccessible.

Dr. Singh, who himself suffers from “locomotor impairment” had remarked that “people with impairments are made disabled by the insensitive medical institutes and hospitals”. He had stated that while the MCI follows strict compliance in assessing building dimensions during inspections, but nowhere efforts are made to see whether the college is accessible to students with disabilities. He had noted that there was thus a need to make these buildings fully accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Chief Commissioner’s officer had subsequently issued a notice to the MCI in January this year to submit the action taken report. When nothing happened in the stipulated one month, another strong reminder was sent and the MCI was asked to respond before April 10.

The MCI then issued a directive to the Deans/Principals of all the medical colleges and institutions on March 29 to submit compliance report on access facilities for persons with disabilities directly to CCPD.

But Dr. Singh insists in doing so. “The MCI response is also shying away from responsibility.” He charged that “no mandatory directives were passed on including ‘access audits’ in inspections and no directive was passed in including medical persons with disabilities in such inspections which I specifically asked for.”

Apprehensive that the MCI was actually trying to skirt the whole issue, Dr. Singh said, “rather than replying to CCPD itself, the MCI has asked the institutions to respond directly to CCPD, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.”

“Persons with disabilities are the world’s largest minority. New World report says one in seven people suffer from some form of disability. Article 9 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and Section 46 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, makes it obligatory for India to implement ‘reasonable accommodation’,” he insisted.

Dr. Singh said while he was only “asking institutions to use the Universal Design (the design of all products and environments to be usable by people of all ages and abilities, to the greatest extent possible),” still the matter was not being handled in the right manner by the authorities.

“A ramp will not only be used by a disabled but also by an 80 year old elderly, pregnant women, small children and trolley workers,” he pointed out, adding that “it is my dream to make all the health services in India barrier-free and this is a small effort in that direction.”

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