Society

The uphill climb for accessibility

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Government offices apart, banks, ATMs, educational institutions, wedding halls, malls and railway stations are a long way from being disabled friendly

On Friday morning, when Rajiv Rajan, a disability rights activist who uses a wheelchair, arrived at the sub-registrar’s office in Saidapet, he found it completely inaccessible.

“The office is on the second floor of the building and though the staff was willing to come down, the camera and finger-printing equipment were fixed on that floor. So I had to get off my wheelchair, sit on the staircase and use my arms to propel myself all the way up. It took me five minutes per floor and the floors were not very clean. While coming down I was carried in the wheelchair by three men and towards the end, nearly slipped. It was very scary,” said Mr. Rajan.

This is not the only government office that remains inaccessible to the disabled despite a February 2013 government order directing that disabled-friendly facilities be installed in public and multi-storeyed of buildings within 180 days, say activists.

Even when there are ramps, they’re often badly designed or, when placed outside the building, hard to reach, said P. Simmachandran, general secretary, Federation of Tamil Nadu Physically Handicapped Associations. “And while some buildings have ramps, they usually don’t have parking for the disabled or disabled-friendly toilets,” he said.

Government offices apart, banks, ATMs, educational institutions, wedding halls, malls and railway stations too are a long way from being disabled friendly, despite the persons with disabilities act, 1995, calling for barrier-free environments, said Mr. Rajan.

“Some people may be born with a disability, some may acquire one later in life. Senior citizens, too, need these facilities. So it makes practical sense to install them. The problem is that at present, the disabled sector is the only watchdog to ensure that these facilities are installed. But this is an issue that should concern everyone,” said Janaki Pillai, director (operations), Ability Foundation.

State commissioner for the disabled K. Manivasan said the pace of implementation of disabled-friendly facilities needed to be speeded up. “Some years ago, there were not even ramps. Now, most buildings have them. Other facilities too need to come in, and there is no lack of commitment from our end. Engineers also need to be sensitised and trained while constructing buildings,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 8:51:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-society/the-uphill-climb-for-accessibility/article6229306.ece

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