Chennai

When modification is about accessibility

Members of Disability Rights Alliance take an accessibility audit at Airport Metro railway station. File Photo

Members of Disability Rights Alliance take an accessibility audit at Airport Metro railway station. File Photo   | Photo Credit: G_Krishnaswamy

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A project by Vidya Sagar promises to help persons with disabilities effect retrofitting changes in their houses

It is a rare house owner who has escaped the question of modifications. Every house will demand a tweak, at some point. There are of course house owners who will duck out of it, choosing to look away from the question. For some though, that option is simply not available. For, the required refinement may be more than just refinement. It may involve safety. Persons with disabilities often find themselves in this situation.

And they may lack the expertise — and sometimes, the resources — to retrofit their houses to enhance safe access to spaces within it. Right now, Vidya Sagar, which creates awareness about issues related to disability and advocates the rights for persons with disabilities, is getting a team ready to help persons with disabilities to meet this demand, among others.

It is called TARA, acronym for Team for Accessibility and Reasonable Accommodation.

“TARA has five focus areas, one of which has to do with house modification and accessible workplaces. The team that will attend to this work is now in the last leg of a training programme, which will be completed on October 15,” says Poonam Natarajan, founder, Vidya Sagar. “People with disabilities can approach this team, which will visit their house, inspect it and list out the modifications that have to be carried out.”

Who will carry out the modifications? What about the costs?

“If they have the people who can carry out the modifications, they can do it. Otherwise, we will provide the resource, and we will be looking at local people — finding a carpenter, a mason or any other skilled worker who may be required, in the locality. We will see how much the modification will cost, and then how much of the cost the family can meet. To take care of the rest of the cost, we will find sponsors,” says Poonam.

This project is in the works. A few modification works have been carried out as preparation to the work ahead of the team.

Smitha Sadasivan, member of Disability Rights Alliance and Vidya Sagar, draws attention to a project in Kotturpuram, where two wheelchair users had difficulty entering their house, due to a sump located plumb in front of their house.

“The wheelchair had to be lifted for a wheelchair user to enter the house. Vidya Sagar carried out a modification to ensure easy access to the house for wheelchair users. It was three-layer wooden ramp, with an ascent, a platform over the sump, and a descent that landed inside the house,” explains Smitha.

There are other elements to TARA. One of them is Supported Accessible Transport. “Get Going is one of our Supported Accessible Transport initiatives. It provides disabled-friendly vehicles for them to travel in,” says Poonam.

It may be noted that a few months ago, Larsen & Tourbo donated two disabled-friendly buses to Vidya Sagar towards this project. Another initiative of TARA, Poonam points out, is “Assistive Devices” which is aimed at improving the knowledge about such devices that can make life easy for persons with disabilities. “TARA itself is part of a much larger project – Resource Centre for Living Independently in the Community. This project has nine pillars, and TARA is one of them,” says Poonam, adding that the centre is a massive work in progress.

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Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 6:54:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/when-modification-is-about-accessibility/article29416729.ece

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