Acting on Svayam’s complaint, Delhi Court passes ‘Order’ to ensure Accessibility in Public places

New Delhi | 23rd November 2019

If you are a wheelchair user and are thrilled to receive an invitation card to attend your best friend’s marriage, chances are that you may have to handover the ‘Shagun Ka Lifafa’ (an envelope containing some cash as gift) at the main gate of the marriage venue and come back home dejected, not able to see the bride or bridegroom due to inaccessibility of the premises. In other case, frustrated you may end up waiting for someone to come along and help out after noticing you struggle and then you may be picked up by 4 persons to reach the main place which ritual needs to be repeated when you are done with the event, needless to say, compromising your dignity, independence and letting others feel “bechara” about you.

If we look at the legal provisions, this is a blatant non-compliance of the Chapter VIII- Duties and Responsibilities of Appropriate Governments, particularly about the provisions on accessibility in built environment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016. The Act requires all public buildings to be accessible; however, most public buildings where people gather for leisure, recreation, cultural activities or for community life continue to be inaccessible. Examples of such public buildings/ spaces includes restaurants, hotels, conference halls, banquets, cinema halls, Barat Ghars, Chaupals, Community Centres, Panchayat Bhawans, spaces rented out for public functions  like ceremonies for wedding, birthdays, felicitations, public rallies/meetings etc. This causes a great discomfort to persons with disabilities and senior citizens and inhibits their participation in social life and their enjoyment of rights available under the RPWD Act 2016.

To seek more information, Svayam then filed an RTI (Right to Information) application with agencies including the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and the Delhi Police (licensing dept.). However, the departments/agencies seemed to wash their hands off the topic and sent vague replies, each agency holding the other agency responsible for accessibility, and as if they were clueless about the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016.

Following unsatisfactory replies, Svayam then filed a complaint with the Hon’ble Court of State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities- Delhi, against nine different respondents including all municipal agencies, Delhi Cantonment Board, Delhi Police-Licensing branch, Delhi Fire Service, Delhi Land & Building Department. Delhi Development Authority etc.

This resulted in some positive actions being taken by agencies like the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), which issued advisories to its officials to ensure accessibility at such event and programme venues.

Respondents & their Submissions:

South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) & East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) in their submissions to the court attached a Copy of Chapter 11 of Unified Building Byelaws (UBBL) 2016 and have also issued directions to concerned officers for adherence.

Svayam however expressed that despite the UBBL 2016 amended in March 2019 to incorporate changes as per the requirements of the RPWD Act, 2016 and the National Building Code (NBC), 2016, none of the respondents have created or introduced the procedural mechanisms to ensure adherence to the accessibility requirements as per the UBBL 2016 (revised) and mere issuing advisories will not help achieve accessibility in public events or venues. Thus it prayed to the court to direct the respondents to create mechanisms for the same.

Delhi Cantonment Board (DCB) shared that there are 41 public properties; 12 of them are 95% accessible while work is going on in the others, which is likely to be completed by May 2020. We felt the claim of 95% accessibility was subjective as this was not supported by any report of the independent access auditors and was merely self-declaration.

Arguing on behalf of Svayam, its Director, Shri Subhash Chandra Vashishth raised a concern that none of the staff/ engineers/ architects/ project officials/ contractors working on developing or maintaining public building and built infrastructure have been trained on the requirements of RPWD Act 2016 and the updated accessibility requirements of the National Building Code 2016 and this must be made mandatory of all such officials working on public projects to be aware of the legal & technical requirements of accessibility in built environment.

Delhi Fire Service admitted that it does not check the accessibility of the premises to persons with disabilities as it did not fall under the purview of the Delhi Fire Service Act 2007 and Delhi Fire Service Rules- 2010. Mr. Vashishth, however, contended that the provisions of updated National Building Code 2016 which provide, how needs of persons with disabilities are to be incorporated, designed & thoroughly inspected by the Fire Department such as Refuge Areas /Rescue Assistance for those with disabilities, emergency evacuation of occupants with disabilities and elderly in case of a disaster, are well within the scope of responsibilities of the Fire department. The complainant has thus urged the Hon’ble court to direct the Fire department to amend their Standing Operating Procedures, proforma for inspections and issuance of licences to building owners and operation of business open to public in light of accessibility mandate. If required, the Delhi Fire Service Act 2007 and Rules 2010 that have come before the RPWD Act of 2016 may need to be scrutinized for any incompatibility with the RPWD Act, National Building Code 2016 etc.

The complainant (Svayam) has urged the Court to direct all respondents to:

a.            Submit list of Public buildings falling in the categories  of restaurants, hotels, conference halls, banquets, cinema halls, Barat Ghars, Chaupals, Community Centres, Panchayat Bhawans, spaces rented out for public functions  like ceremonies for wedding, birthdays, felicitations, public rallies/meetings etc. and the status of their accessibility and timeline by which they would be made accessible, name of contact person, email and mobile phone so that it can be ascertained by the Hon’ble Court.

b.            Submit to the court the proformas of mandatory requirements to be met for (i) issuance of completion certificate of the building and (ii) for issuance of licences for running the activities for use of public.

c.             Submit to the court the proformas for compliance for both above functions to be complied with by the officials and stakeholders, including physical visits and cross verification by the Project Architects/ Accessibility & Universal design professional. (NBC 2016 provides for mandatory addition of Accessibility expert in the building projects).   And add in the proformas, the legal implications and penalties for non-compliance of the accessibility provisions prescribed in the RPWD Act 2016.

d.            Compulsory training of all officers/engineers/architects deployed for inspection or licensing or monitoring work and a detailed process of frequency and manner in which the respondents shall monitor the access requirements and issue licences,

e.            Each Urban Local Body/ Municipal Corporation/ respondent must upload on its website the most updated version of the UBB or applicable Building Byelaws in the E-Text format (Accessible to screen readers) for easy access to all stakeholders and also to remove the obsolete and old bye-laws/ formats from their websites/public domain so as to avoid confusion. The respondents must also submit a copy of the same to this Hon’ble Court and in case of any revision in future, the latest version of the same should be submitted to this Hon’ble Court within 30 days of such notification, without fail.

Observations & directions by the Court

After all concerned parties submitted their submissions, arguments and counter arguments, the Court finally issued a comprehensive Order; some of the salient highlights are as below:

  1. This Court is of the opinion that ensuring accessibility for all is a shared responsibility and every department has a role in it (Sec 41)
  2. The respondent organisations/ agencies who are responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the public/ community toilets should upload their exact location and updated status of accessible once, in their respective websites and also create awareness about the accessible facilities among the public (43: VII).
  3. The Monitoring Committee should also monitor the action plans in respect of the places of worship submitted by the 11 District Magistrates, 429 available Hotels and Restaurants in NCT of Delhi, the list available as on the date of this order (43: XI).
  4. All the owners/occupiers of ‘public buildings’ and the ‘public facilities and services’ in such areas should be made aware about the mandatory provision and be directed either to make the public buildings owned/ used by them or the public facilities and services being provided by them, accessible or stop the operations from inaccessible place (43: XII).
  5. Accessibility in the premises and Accessibility in the facilities and services be made an essential requirement/ condition for grant of permission/ licence or NOC for all public premises/functions such as restaurants, hotels, conference halls, banquets, cinema halls, Barat Ghars, Chaupals, Community Centres, Panchayat Bhawans, Open Spaces rented out for public functions like ceremonies for wedding, birthdays, felicitations, public rallies/meetings etc. (43: XVI).

It may be relevant to mention that non-compliance of the provision of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act makes it an offence punishable with a fine, which may extend up to Rs. 5 lakh. 

To download the Detailed Order of the Court, click here.

Posted in Marginalised pedestrians on Indian Roads | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Over 200 Kenyan officials take part in Svayam-NCPWD’s 2nd ‘Basic Access Auditor' Training Course in Nairobi; India’s High Commission lauds Svayam for adding ‘Accessibility’ in India-Kenya relationship

Nairobi | 22 Nov 2019

After an overwhelming response of the first ‘Basic Access Auditor’ training course (held in Nairobi in June 2019), Svayam organized its 2nd ‘Basic Access Auditor’ training course in Nairobi, during 19-21 November 2019. The training course was held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), Nairobi, and is a part of the Phase One of the ‘Accessible Kenya Mission’ (AKM) launched by Svayam in partnership with the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD), Govt. of Kenya.

Certificate of participation giving ceremony
Hon’ble Mohammed Hussein Gabbow, Executive Director, NCPWD (Extreme Right) & Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam, (Second from Right) giving away ‘Certificate of participation’

AKM is aimed at bringing a large section of Kenyan society to the mainstream life and economic activities by raising awareness on accessibility of public infrastructure and transportation systems, among key stakeholders.

During their visit, the Svayam Team also had a meeting with India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, Mr. Ashish Kumar Sinha, & they discussed larger inclusion of accessibility in India-Kenya relationship.

Hon’ble Mohammed Hussein Gabbow, Executive Director, NCPWD, commented: “It is indeed a great honour that Svayam and the National Council have joined hands to start up ‘Accessible Kenya Mission’. To make accessibility non-negotiable, NCPWD has now made it mandatory for all public servants as well as disability mainstreaming departments to undergo this Accessibility Awareness Training course and contribute towards our shared goal of accessible, inclusive Kenya & achieve a quality of life for our children, women, seniors, elderly and people with disabilities.”

Participants at the 'Basic Access Auditor' Training Course in Nairobi, Kenya
Participants at the ‘Basic Access Auditor’ Training Course in Nairobi, Kenya

Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam, added: “Knowledge sharing is key to realize the dream of an inclusive world. We are happy to share our organization’s expertise through ‘Accessible Kenya Mission’, and thank NCPWD-Kenya for partnering with us towards making Kenya accessible for all. Accessibility is a human right issue and this mission will generate awareness in Kenya while contributing in capacity building.”   

Photo of Kenya visit - Svayam team with India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, Mr. Ashish Kumar Sinha
India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, Mr. Ashish Kumar Sinha (Second from Left) with Savaym Team

The training attracted participants from different counties and departments including the National Construction Authority, Kenya Port Authority, National Council for Population and Development, National Councils from different disabilities, National Registration Board, Ministry of Labour Protection as well as various national and international agencies including Motivation, Humanity & Inclusion (HI), Open Institute, InABLE, etc.

The entire training program was designed in a way so as to improve the skills of the participants on identifying barriers and important aspects of accessibility for achieving the objective of an inclusive society. The activities included lectures, practical demonstrations, simulation exercises, discussions, and site excursions. This unique training course was based on ISO 21542 (approved standard by Govt. of Kenya).

After successful completion of training, assessment was conducted to evaluate the skills of the participants and ‘Certificates of Participation’ were given to all the participants, and a total of 53 candidates qualified to become ‘Basic Access Auditors’.

Posted in Access Workshop, Accessibility in public infrastructure, Accessible Cities, Accessible Kenya Mission | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delhi Court issues landmark ‘ORDER’ to ensure accessibility at religious places for persons with disabilities as per “Guidelines for Making Religious Places Accessible” authored by Svayam

New Delhi, 16 October 2019, Wednesday

While on 16th October, 2019, the Supreme Court completed the hearings on the Ram Janmabhoomi- Babri Masjid Case and reserved its verdict, another landmark Order on access to religious places for persons with disabilities issue was passed by the Court of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) Delhi, on the same day. The Court ordered all religious places in Delhi to incorporate accessibility in time bound manner, to ensure inclusive worship for all, including devotees with disabilities and elderly.  

Cover page of 'Guidelines for Making Religious Places Accessible'
Cover Page of ‘Guidelines for Making Religious Places Accessible’ authored by Svayam and published in partnership with the CCPD, MSJE, GOI

In view of the mandatory provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016, the Court, in July 2017, took suo motu cognizance of inaccessible built environment at religious places in Delhi and issued notices to all District Magistrates seeking information. None of the respondents submitted the sought information and action plan in respect of the places of worship apparently because most of these belonged to private establishments/trusts. 

In May 2018, all the respondents (11 District Magistrates of Govt. of NCT of Delhi) were advised to take appropriate action to make the places of worship in their districts accessible for persons with disabilities to ensure that they are also able to enjoy their right to worship on equal basis with others.  They were also requested to obtain information from the concerned authority/ organization and an action plan with timelines to make each place of worship accessible and to send a consolidated list to the Court by 4th July 2018.

Following no response from the concerned District Magistrates except DM, South East and DM, North-East despite reminders, suo-motu cases were registered.

It is pertinent to note here that the Hon’ble State Commissioner Sh. T.D. Dhariyal, himself visited several religious sites in Delhi across faiths and found none of them accessible.

Some District Magistrates had submitted Police Station-wise information, while others gave sub-division-wise information and District Disaster Management Authority-wise.  However, the Hon’ble court in its order appreciated the action taken report by District Magistrate (West), Ms. Neha Bansal who submitted physical verification of 202 places of worship while also setting 31.03.2020 as the target date for making rest of the places of worship accessible. 

Read the full article here.

For the Court’s ORDER, click here.

To download the ‘Guidelines for Making religious Places Accessible’, click here.

Posted in Access audit of community infrastructure, Accessibility in public infrastructure, barrier free public buildings, Delhi, Discrimination on grounds of disabilities, Svayam, Svayam India, Svayam Press Releases | Leave a comment

Medical Tourism in India: Affordable, but is it Accessible to All?

Dear Colleagues,

Happy to share a thought provoking author article from one of our young volunteers, Anav Batra, published in TravelBiz Monitor magazine in October 2019 issue. Happy reading!

Anav Batra, Volunteer, Svayam

New Delhi | 04 October 2019

By Anav Batra

The world has celebrated the World Tourism Day on 27th September with much gusto. Different focused activities took place across the world to promote tourism. This year (2019) the Tourism Day got more prominence, as India was chosen as a host country for the official celebrations of United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) World Tourism Day in New Delhi. Also, the nationwide ‘Paryatan Parv 2019’ kicked off on 2 Oct. 2019 (Gandhi Ji’s 150th birth anniversary) will continue till 13th October 2019 with an aim to propagate the message of ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ to encourage people to visit tourist destinations of the country and spread the message of Tourism for All.    

While several events were organized to promote tourism in the country and showcase India as a great tourist destination which it is, one thing that somehow got missed is the crucial part of tourism i.e. medical tourism. Its enormous potentials and ability to contribute to the national GDP and create employment opportunities need to be emphasized.    

India, a global hub for medical tourists, attracts colossal amounts of patients from around the world. In 2017, over 4.95 lakh (495,000) patients had come for treatment in India, while it was 2.34 lakh (234,000) foreign tourists who came for treatment related reasons in the year 2015. With the rise of medical tourists, comes significant revenue for the medical industry.  KJ Alphons, Former Union Minister of State for Culture, and Tourism, while replying to a question in parliament, had also shared that India had generated an estimated revenue of ₹1,77,874 crore in 2017 alone from foreign exchange. The meteoric rise has resulted in India’s medical tourism industry to be worth a staggering $9 billion dollars by 2020, roughly equivalent to 20% of the global market share.

The question here is, why has India become the medical tourism mammoth that it is? India has a rare mix of affordability, effective and superior clinical outcomes, up-to-date facilities, and a large variety of medical services offered to patients. For example, a heart bypass procedure costs a mere $5,200 in India, as compared to the enormous $144,000 that it costs in the USA. For those who are from lesser-developed nations, India provides a tempting choice for patients. It’s cost-effective, reliable, and accurate. India provides patients from all nations with world class medical services, which cannot be found back at home, at price levels that are staggeringly low from the United States of America, and the United Kingdom. To add on, this concept can also be highly beneficial to patients from first-world countries. These patients may be looking for similar treatment care, for a lower cost, and India provides the perfect solution, right?  Despite all the strengths described above, Medical Tourism in India, however, is losing many medical tourists to nationals like Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand for variety of reasons. If we look at the data of medical tourism inflow, Bangladesh tops the list while other countries include Maldives, Afghanistan, East African nations. There is no significant number from the first world countries.

To read full article…… visit the source link of TraveBiz Monitor here. or to read the article in PDF click here.

Posted in Accessibility Guidelines, Accessibility in public infrastructure, Accessible Cities, Accessible Healthcare, Accessible Hospitals, Accessible India Campaign, Accessible Toilets, Accessible Tourism, Accessible Tourism, Accessible Transport, accessible travel and tourism, Inclusive Tourism, Medical Tourism, Sminu Jindal, Svayam, Svayam India | Leave a comment

How the corporate world can strive for real diversity and inclusivity at the workplace

By Ms. Sminu Jindal

01 July 2019 | New Delhi

(This article appeared in The Mint, Delhi Edition on 01 July 2019)

I was 21 when I was assigned to revive one of our plants. This was my first uphill battle—I realized how gendered these spaces were as I experienced them first-hand. The matter becomes even more complex when leadership is from a wheelchair. People’s traditional perception of leadership was challenged—this led to daily obstacles with management, which led to some of the senior leaders constantly testing my decision-making. Such incidents made me learn about the relationship between equal opportunity and accessibility.

It was experiences such as these that led me to start Svayam in 2000, with a singular mission: Dignity for all. This quest made me discover some of the most courageous people who have created a life for themselves and others despite the challenges of limited mobility.

Samuel Mani is an exceptional example of how individuals with disabilities can live incredible lives. Many people, including his parents, believed that he would never be able to survive in the real world independently as he had cerebral palsy. When he wanted to work in a multinational, he was told that his wheelchair would “dirty the floor” and he had to walk to work. He refused to give up his passion for his profession and founded ‘Neutron Computers’. Today, it is one of South Asia’s few Microsoft-authorized sellers of refurbished computers.

Another example is Meenu, who uses a wheelchair and could not go to college as public transport in Delhi was not accessible to her. She had to sign up for correspondence courses. Her strength of character enabled her to set up a non-governmental organization, ‘Yes! We Can’, five years ago to enable persons with disabilities.

My life experiences have taught me a few things: Humans largely live by their perceptions, so people form their opinions of me just by looking at my wheelchair. This bias towards people with reduced mobility pervades the globe. People with reduced mobility are constantly underestimated and diminished. It happens in all sections of society and in every nation. It should not be forgotten that all Indians shape our growing economy and contribute to the gross domestic product (GDP).

The elderly in our communities have been a vibrant part of our economy throughout their lives by working and paying taxes. We cannot reduce the joys of their lives in their golden age by making them home-bound.

The issue of accessibility includes people with injuries, elderly, pregnant women and people with disabilities. All of us face issues of accessibility in our lifetime, when our opportunities are reduced by temporary or permanent impairment. We cannot deny people in such circumstances human contact, which is the greatest comfort for any person. In India, the lack of accessible public infrastructure cages countless of such individuals in their homes, depriving the world of their talents and contributions.

Times are changing. Information communication has transformed drastically, and Indian companies are making it a point to be more inclusive. The composition of boardrooms has evolved since diversity became a key priority on the agendas of corporations striving for growth. Women have started to appear in influential positions and bring in a new style of leadership that necessitates sincere consensus. However, the corporate ecosystem also needs to create a more conducive environment for people with reduced mobility to be a primary part of the boardroom’s composition as well. Simple acts like ensuring that the job selection process is inclusive of candidates with disabilities by offering assistive technology on the website, can go a long way. Steps need to be taken to make a workplace accessible to all.

Further, public transport and infrastructure need to be inclusive to enable people with reduced mobility such as pregnant women, elderly as well as those with disabilities to travel with ease.

Installing ramps requires capital, which can suddenly turn scarce, even when more general expenditures, for example air-conditioning, are easily sanctioned. It is not people who are disabled, it is the environment which makes them disabled.

When people with reduced mobility are given the same skills to succeed as the rest of the population, they too can start successful businesses and empower others, giving back to society. With inclusive infrastructure, everyone can study, step out, work and explore opportunities. Equal opportunity can only exist with accessibility.

Posted in Access Workshop, Accessibility in public infrastructure, Discrimination on grounds of disabilities, Entrepreneurs, YahanSeWahanTak | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kenya gets its first fleet of ‘Access Auditors’ as Svayam & NCPWD gear up for ‘Accessible Kenya Mission’

Nairobi | 28 June 2019

Kenya got its first ever fleet of 25 Access Auditors, as Svayam, in collaboration with the National Council for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD), Govt. of Kenya, organized a five-day ‘Basic Access Auditor’ training course in Nairobi during 24-28 June 2019. The training course was a part of the Phase One of the ‘Accessible Kenya Mission’ (a joint initiative of Svayam & NCPWD) which is aimed at bringing a large section of Kenyan society to the mainstream life and economic activities by raising awareness on accessibility of public infrastructure and transportation systems, among key stakeholders.

Image of Course Participants posing for a photo with Mr. Peter Muchiri, the Chair, Board of Directors, NCPWD, Kenya (in wheelchair) & Svayam Team
Course Participants pose for a photo with Mr. Peter Muchiri, the Chair, Board of Directors, NCPWD, Kenya (in wheelchair) & Svayam Team

As Kenya is aspiring to provide more inclusive and friendly built environment to people of all ages and abilities, need of professionals who have an expertise on the specific needs of people with disabilities is growing. Traditional courses in rehabilitation, medical and para-medical, civil engineering, design, architecture, special education etc. do not exhaustively cover the subject well. The NCPWD has a mandate to issue adjustment orders to ensure accessibility in existing buildings; however, there is shortage of trained hands that can conduct access audits of built environments & services and provide recommendations to improve accessibility. Svayam has stepped in to fill this gap.

image of candidates taking their exam at the end of the training.
Participants taking the examination

The launch ceremony of the ‘Basic Access Auditor Training Course’ saw the presence of Hon’ble Peter Muchiri, the Chair of Board of Directors, NCPWD, Hon’ble Mohammed Hussein Gabbow, Executive Director, NCPWD, and Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam, among other dignitaries and guests from various government departments and NGOs.   

In his opening comments during the launch ceremony, Hon’ble Gabbow said: “I on behalf of my Government and all Kenyan citizens congratulate and thank Svayam and its Founder Ms. Sminu Jindal, for partnering with NCPWD to promote accessibility and inclusion through our joint initiative ‘Accessible Kenya Mission’. It is indeed a great opportunity for all of us to be part of this mission and work on raising awareness and bringing a much needed change that would benefit everyone and help in achieving the dream of inclusion, equality and social justice through accessibility. I am sure this will change our landscape and bring economic empowerment of fellow Kenyans with disabilities.”

Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam, who led the training, added: “The partnership between Svayam and the NCPWD is aimed at promoting accessibility in public infrastructure of Kenya to make mobility and transportation more inclusive and to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), several of them are linked to accessibility.  As part of this collaboration, Svayam will contribute in capacity building of stakeholders through training courses and facilitate the strategies for achieving accessibility in built environment, public transportation and services in Kenya.”

Mr. Vashishth added, “To this end, Svayam is currently conducting this training program on Accessibility leading to certification of the first batch of Access Auditors. Applicants for the batch have been selected from the social development sector as well as public officials who are engaged in creating, managing or monitoring the public infrastructure as a part of their job.”

The response to the call for applications was overwhelming as numerous applications were received from Kenyan nationals. This unique crash course is based on ISO 21542 (approved standard by Govt. of Kenya). The training course was held at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), Nairobi.

image of Course topper Ms.  Shirkirah Wanjiku Mwangi, receiving her certificate from Hon'ble Gabbow, CEO of NCPWD
Course topper Ms. Shirkirah Wanjiku Mwangi, from National construction Authority Kenya receiving her certificate from Hon’ble Gabbow, CEO, NCPWD, Kenya

The training days were long, involving course work, assessments and field visits. A total of 25 candidates successfully completed the course and will be on probation conducting access audit of at least 10 buildings identified by the NCPWD and submit reports for evaluation. On successful completion, their name will be entered in the ‘National Register of Access Auditors’ as a part of the ‘Accessible Kenya Mission’.

Image of a successful candidate with disability receiving her certificate from Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam
Several candidates passing the course were persons with disabilities

The National Council will share the access audit reports so prepared with the concerned departments/ministries for action in a time bound manner, post which adjustment orders will be issued by the Council.

The next training in the series for Kenya’s public officials, is scheduled to be conducted during 24 Sep 2019- 26 Sep 2019. For details visit here.

Posted in Access audit of community infrastructure, Access Audits, Accessibility in public infrastructure, Accessible Kenya Mission, barrier free public buildings, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Persons with Disabilities, Sminu Jindal, Svayam Events, Svayam India, Svayam Press Releases | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Focus on accessibility in colleges for a better tomorrow

By Ms. Sminu Jindal

29th May 2019 | New Delhi

(This article appeared in Hindustan Times, Delhi Edition on 29th May 2019)

Accessibility means uninterrupted mobility for all of us to reach our fullest potential. People with reduced mobility, permanent or temporary disabilities, like pregnant women, senior citizens and children have the right to inclusive and accessible environments in all aspects of life. Accessibility facilitates empowerment of the people; this is done through holistic, inclusive and accessible education for all. However, this has yet to be a reality. People with reduced mobility still have to choose between their right to education and their need for an accessible environment.

There are many stories that incite the need for action like Sonia Tripathi’s story, a tale of a father’s devotion to his daughter to support her throughout her education, even by carrying her up to the third floor of her college building so that she can give her BA exams. It is one of the millions of untold stories of people with reduced mobility that illustrate the need for a barely existing inclusivity and accessibility in our education system.

Of the 150 higher educational institutes existing in India, students with disabilities constitute a mere 0.56% of them. Dropout rates are higher for students with reduced mobility than the rates for their admission. It is natural to ask the question: why individuals with reduced mobility do not attend colleges or pursue higher education at all? Why, despite the existence of so many unoccupied seats, students with reduced mobility do not get the opportunity to a college education? There is no single reason why people with various challenges do not have a ‘go-getter’ attitude when it comes to college education. Everyone is not able to connect with the emotional turmoil experienced by a person with reduced mobility. Thus, this problem has emerged and gained prominence.

In the capital region of the country Delhi University has about 50-55K seats in Undergraduate courses. The reserved seats earlier were around 1500 and disabled admission seekers range from 700 to 1000 only. With the new Act the reservation has gone up from 3% to 5% hence the seats reserved are about 2500 now for DU U/G course. Other than this IP University, Ambedkar University, Delhi Technological University (DTU), National Law University, Medical colleges, Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), and many other professional institutions have a large intake of students. Currently the disability quota is 5%, as mandated by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016.

As per reports, thirty-two of India’s top universities and institutions of higher learning, including IITs, IIMs, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University, together fill up barely 16% of the minimum quota for people with disabilities. 84% seats under disability quota remain unfilled in the top universities.

At present, most colleges in India get infrastructural audits done, but completely accessible college campuses remain a challenge. While they recognize and incorporate provisions for people with reduced mobility, the extent is usually narrowed down to certain forms of physical challenges among some individuals. Basic facilities like accessible transportation to and from college, in-campus accommodations and an accessible infrastructure, with wide doors, elevators, ramps, and properly equipped toilets to enable uninterrupted mobility and educational pursuit need to more extensively built.

Yet, accessibility goes beyond the transportation and infrastructural provisions; the role played by limiting beliefs around reduced mobility is a major aspect that needs to be looked at. Reduced mobility is perceived to disempower and dampen the potential of an individual. For them to have ‘equal opportunity’ and ‘the right to inclusive and accessible education,’ they must put in extra efforts, make sacrifices and prove their resilience. The onus of overcoming the hurdles to achieve equal opportunities should never be on the person with reduced mobility, it is a community-wide problem. Reduced mobility is indefinitely a challenge; yet, who does not face obstacles in their lives? Inclusive provisions and beliefs in a diverse society like ours means ensuring we all have the tools to overcome our own unique battles in our journeys.

Such conversations shed light on forgotten challenges that parts of our society have, are and will continue to face until steps are taken to properly address this debilitating issue our society and economy faces, as able and willing talent is lost every time a child drops out of school. Accessible and inclusive education for all is what we all deserve, irrespective of our mobility status. These large-scale, trans-media conversations break myths on reduced mobility to establish clearly the needs of accessible transportation and infrastructure for equal and inclusive opportunities that will lead to a better tomorrow.

Making educational institutes an inclusive and barrier-free learning space is quintessential for accessibility, which is what Svayam is working on since 2000. By spreading awareness, especially among the youth, through its digital media campaign #YahanSeWahanTak, it facilitates conversations on challenges like #GharSeCollegeTak, personal narratives of youth on the lack of accessible infrastructure and limiting beliefs they faced in higher education.

Graphic image of the Newspaper Article above

Posted in Access Audits, Accessibility Guidelines, Accessible Education, Accessible India Campaign, Accessible Toilets, Accessible Transport, Barrier Free, barrier free public buildings, Delhi University, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Svayam, Svayam Press Releases, YahanSeWahanTak, Young Indians | Leave a comment