Only 32 of the 355 medical colleges/institutions in India have submitted compliance reports on access facilities for persons with disabilities to the office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) despite a directive by the Medical Council of India.
Dr. Satendra Singh, coordinator of the Enabling Unit of the Equal Opportunity Cell at the University College of Medical Sciences here on whose petition the MCI had issued the directive, said CCPD forwarded copies of all the replies received from various institutions/colleges to him on June 13 and in these there was just one response from a medical college in Delhi.
The All India Institute of Medical Science here responded by directing the Engineering Services Department to constitute a committee of Assistant Engineers (Civil) who will conduct access audit and look into Dr. Singh’s suggestions and submit a report within 10 days. Though the parent institute showed resolve, none of the six new AIIMS-like institutions responded to MCI. Most top medical colleges and colleges in many State and Union Territories have not bothered to reply.
Dr. Singh said some of the responses showed utter disregard among the institutions towards creating a barrier-free environment and expressing a sensitive approach towards the disabled. The Principal of Medical College, Kolkata, said: “There are 21 students with disabilities and they do not require any special access for their disability.”
Critical of the approach, Dr. Singh said: “This assumption, without involving persons with disabilities, is the attitudinal barrier. Though, I appreciate the fact that their new auditorium has a special ramp but assuming that students with disabilities do not require special access is a bit harsh.”
He said a few institutes such as SGTMHS Gurgaon, PDMMC Amravati, SGRR Dehradun, MIMS Andhra Pradesh and SGRD Amritsar repeatedly maintained that there were no persons with disabilities in their medical college thereby permanently shutting their doors to wheelchair users.
“What if Stephen Hawking or Dr. S. H. Advani (the wheelchair user oncologist who pioneered bone marrow treatment for leukaemia in India) want to give lectures at these institutes?” he asked.
Similarly, he said the Dean of Medical College, Vadodara, slammed the door shut on visually-impaired persons by stating, “We don’t have Braille symbols as we don’t receive candidates with visual disability”.
The responses, he said, also carried some positives. Some medical colleges like GMERS Vadodara and JNMC Wardha said adaptation toilets for wheelchair users were available. CMCH Pathankot even mentioned that they have such toilets “at every floor of the building” while the Dean of PCMS Bhopal wrote that the institute was “fully accessible and there are no architectural barriers”.
The good news, he said, was actually coming from the lesser known medical institutions which not only admitted their mistakes but also showed a will to rectify them.