Accessibility is a trillion-dollar economy: Sminu Jindal tells world’s business leaders in Washington summit 

Svayam Founder and Chairperson Ms Sminu Jindal interacting at the Global Leadership Conference of the
Entrepreneurs’ Organization at Washington, DC, on Monday, 25 April.

Svayam Chairperson and Jindal SAW MD gives a stirring message of hope, talks business opportunities at Washington summit for start-up owners

NEW DELHI, April 26, 2022: Jindal SAW Ltd Managing Director Sminu Jindal addressed thousands of entrepreneurs from all over the world at the Global Leadership Conference (GLC), the flagship by-invitation-only event of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) on 25 April in Washington, DC. She was the only Indian leader among the select 16 mainstage speakers at the event. 

Jindal, who is also the Founder Chairperson of accessibility organisation Svayam, was invited to share her inspirational journey as the first woman in a wheelchair in the steel, oil, and gas sector. Speaking at the event, she said: “Accessibility strikes a deep chord in my soul because it’s misunderstood. Accessibility is a solution. It’s a trillion-dollar economy that’s waiting to happen.” 

Accessibility is hope. Hope is priceless. It’s worth it for all of us to make it possible.

Sminu Jindal
Ms Jindal in conversation with Jane Bianchini (centre) Founder of Alcami Interactive and Gaurav Jhunjhnuwala from EO Gurgaon chapter during her talk at the EO Global Leadership Conference, 

With the focus on smart cities and new avenues of revenue generation, accessibility is the way forward, she said. Citing the millions left out of the economy, whether as part of the workforce or as buyers of services, due to lack of accessibility, Jindal spoke of the opportunity waiting to be tapped. Building a case for start-up business models built around accessibility, she called it the financial future of a world facing an increased number of people with reduced mobility.

There are 138 million elderly in India, set to rise to 194 million by 2031, and 319 million by 2050. The 67,385 daily birth figures indicate the number of pregnant women at any given point in the country. At 21.9 million, the disabled make up only 2.1% of the population, although the figures are from the 2011 Census. “Accessibility is hope. Hope is priceless. It’s worth it for all of us to make it happen,” Jindal urged. The four-day GLC ended on Tuesday, 26 April. The US-based EO is a high-quality support network of 15,600+ leaders across 61 countries.

Posted in Accessibility in public infrastructure, Barrier Free, barrier free public buildings, Economy, Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs' Organization, Motivational Talk by Ms. Sminu Jindal, Sminu Jindal, Svayam | Leave a comment

Svayam’s #WithPride campaign stirs conversation on stigma around Assistive Devices

New Delhi | 19 Dec. 2020

“I don’t want to use my walker in public. What people will think about me?”

“I will not step out of my home as people mock me due to my wheelchair.”

“My reading glasses don’t look good. I will go to the party without it as people always judge me when I wear it.”

These statements are so common with people who need assistive devices or mobility equipment but are shy from doing so due to society’s prohibitive outlook towards these devices. We see people’s inhibitions on using eyeglasses, hearing aids, walking aids and wheelchair as they don’t want to face the unsettling comments and inconvenient eye gazes.

People find it tough to be ready psychologically and emotionally and admit to themselves that they have a medical condition or old age. To be forced to use a cane, a walker, a brace, or a wheelchair is seems like a physical manifestation that we are weak and may be approaching our last days or our bodies are slowing down, or failing. We simply have a difficult time accepting the truth of that fact of life. They think using an assistive device will make them look ‘bechara’ (unfortunate) in front of the world. This pessimistic thinking keeps them indoor and away from many fruits of life that await them if they step out. Even if they have to use a cane, they do it with heavy heart and with dejection. It becomes a love-hate relationship.

To break this myth and shatter the stigma, Svayam ran a campaign ‘Use Your Assistive Devices #WithPride’ during 13 Sep. 2020 – 18 Dec. 2020.      

Talking about the campaign, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder-Chairperson, Svayam, said, “We think about what people say more, and consequently ignore our own safety and comfort. Shouldn’t these attitudes and prejudices go now, for they are wrong and twice as harmful? We had launched #WithPride campaign to encourage people to shed their inhibition and stop bothering about what the world would say. After all, it is their lives and who are others to decide what they should do or not do. Assistive devices are not ‘shame’; they are empowerment. That is the core message of the #WithPride campaign.”

Campaign closing message by Svayam Founder Ms. Sminu Jindal

“Living life with a mobility device is independence. Terms like ‘wheelchair bound’ belong to ignorant times. Wheelchair doesn’t not bound, it is user’s freedom. Mobility equipment enables us to enjoy independence, go places and chase our dreams. Then where is the place for shame or stigma? It is all in mind and mind can be cleaned,” she added.

To strengthen the campaign, many stakeholders, users, celebrities who use assistive devices shared their life stories through videos. These have been posted on social media platforms of the organisation. 

Some of the messages are:

“We know that disability is a challenge, but we the disabled also know that disability is an opportunity to prove that with an Assistive Device like a White Cane or a Hearing Aid or a Crutch or an Artificial Hand or an Artificial Leg or a wheelchair, we can dare to dream big and achieve the impossible. So let us use our disability device as a Badge of Courage to prove to the world that our minds and our hearts, our bodies and our souls are invincible, that battles are won or lost in mind before they are won or lost on the ground and that with our Assistive Device we shall always overcome!”- Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo (Retd.)

Video message by Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo (Retd.)

“All the people, who have any kind of disability, should use their assistive devices and not feel any shame or bother about what the world is saying or what it would say because it is our responsibility that we come out of the house and use our device. Try to find out your best version. Because no one could tell you your best version until you find it yourself.   So, please use your Assistive Device #WithPride and find out the best version of yourself!”- Shams Aalam, Indian Para Swimmer

Video message by Shams Aalam, Indian Para Swimmer

“I am an ‘above-knee’ amputee and use a variety of assistive devices for my ease and comfort, like I use a crutch to move around at my house. I have a walking prosthesis. I use a different prosthesis for playing badminton and I have recently started using a new prosthesis for running and fitness. So, I want to tell all of you that you should proudly display your assistive devices/mobility equipment. Consider it as a part of your body and do not hesitate to use them.”- Manasi Joshi, international para-badminton player

Video message of Manasi Joshi, international para-badminton player

“I use a wheelchair. But at one time, I used to fly an aircraft like the MIG25 nearly at three times the speed of sound. As to put it in a quote, ‘I am now from airborne to chair-borne’. I see the wheelchair as a friend, an Assistive Device which improves my quality of life and helps me go places and go places means not only within house; I have travelled all over the world including India. So don’t be ashamed of using your assistive device. They help improve the quality of life.” – Prabal Malaker, Group Captain, Indian Air Force

Video message by Prabal Malakar, Group Captain, Indian Air Force

Director – Svayam, says: “Assistive devices not only empower people to step out and do their work with ease, they also help prevent further decay in health as not using a walking stick leads to more complications post a surgery. Freedom is non-negotiable and cannot be sacrificed for the sake of society’s prejudices. The campaign had garnered overwhelming support from so many people across the world.”

The campaign tried to inspire people to overcome their fears and insecurities, accept the facts of lives, face the challenges head-on, shed their inhibition and step out the house with their assistive devices or mobility aid without thinking about what the world would say, chase their dreams and achieve them like anyone else. There is no pity or shame; there are only chances to shine.

The campaign also encouraged people to see their assistive devices as a symbol of their disability, and embrace themselves what they are. It also tried to change the perceptions prevailing in the society towards mobility aid so that we can consider all as ‘equal’ despite their disabilities or mobility equipment.

Ms. Jindal beautifully summed up the campaign with her empowering message, “My wheelchair is a reminder that I’m a warrior; when life wanted to bring me down on my knees, I chose to run on my WHEELS!”

Posted in Sminu Jindal, Svayam, Svayam India | Tagged | 2 Comments

Govt. of India issues Comprehensive Disability Inclusive Guidelines for implementation by all States & UTs during COVID19 lockdown.

New Delhi, 26 March 2020

Today, our country & much of the world are facing the most daunting challenge of this century – Coronavirus pandemic or COVID19. The 21- day nation-wide lockdown (25 March-14 April 2020) announced by our Hon’ble PM Shri Modi Ji to keep all of us safe & halt the chain of virus transmission.

The COVID19 crisis is new to the world. It is requiring us all to act, interact and communicate in different ways than we are used to. However, the social inequalities exacerbating COVID19’s impact on persons with disabilities are not new. The risk in the response to the current crisis is that persons with disabilities are feeling left behind once again. And in many cases, this risk is clear & present in many parts of the world and not just India.

Amid this unprecedented health emergency, while we manage our lives somehow, marginalized groups such as senior citizen, patients & Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) evidently are amongst the most vulnerable group in situations of risk and many of them need continuous care and support. Major problems they face are- Lack of information & awareness material in accessible formats; Lack of basic food items & medication due to no home delivery; Caregivers not able to reach care receivers or go out to buy things; Lack of access to medical facilities; & Break in source of income causing plight.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) in its special report, “No one left behind, not now, not ever: Persons with disabilities in the COVID19 response”, says, “Fundamental to all these points is including persons with disabilities as co-creators of COVID19 responses, as champions and users, not as victims. All crises bring opportunities, and the opportunity of the moment is to make inclusion of all previously-marginalized groups – including persons with disabilities – a central element of all responses. By building on our experience with disability inclusion and deepening partnerships, we can support a sustainable and inclusive response to COVID19.”

Many persons with disabilities or critically ill patients depend on caregivers for their daily activities & needs. However, as of now caregivers for persons with disabilities do not come under the essential services category and hence over two days of lockdown instances of persons with disabilities facing difficulties have emerged.

One story of such difficulties faced is about Mr. Samuel Mani. The South Delhi based entrepreneur with disability and his wife (both are wheelchair users and have cerebral palsy) have been left with no caregivers and their aged parents are also unwell. The support staff is unable to travel to give necessary assistance due to lockdown. Mani family couldn’t get the delivery of essential groceries for over two days as the local store refused to deliver it citing lockdown and police not allowing delivery boys. The family had no one who could go and collect the groceries from the Store. It was only after the issue was taken up by Svayam with the Store owner, the Police & Local MLA & also raised through the social media that the essentials finally got delivered. However, the caregiver still aren’t available.

While there is no denying the fact that social distancing norms need to be followed during this period, at the same time it is the responsibility of the Government to take measures to ensure that the persons with disabilities have access to essential support services (even for their daily living activities like caregiver support), supplies and medical aid at their doorstep, given the severe restrictions imposed on the movement of people.

DEPWD issued Comprehensive Disability Inclusive Guidelines: –

With a view to take care of persons with disabilities during this emergency situation, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Government of India has developed comprehensive guidelines for implementation by the States/UTs. The DEPwD has also suggested that the State Commissioner for PwDs should be designated as the State Nodal Authority so that the State Disaster Management Authority works in close coordination with him. However, while implementing the guidelines, it needs to be ensured that there is no violation of MHA Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-1(A) dated 24th March, 2020. Here are the Guidelines:-

Comprehensive Disability Inclusive Guidelines for protection and safety of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) during COVID 19.

In view of the pandemic situation due to the outbreak and rapid spread of COVID19 across the world, the public health has been endangered both nationally and internationally, necessitating urgent measures on the part of both the Central and State Governments, aimed at containing the spread of the disease. The Government of India has declared the situation arising out of COVID19 as a National Disaster and necessary guidelines have been issued under the National Disaster Management Act, 2005.

2.      The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India being the nodal Central Ministry on health issues has issued guidelines for general public as well as health workers to contain the spread of the disease. These are available on their website which inter-alia contains:-

●   Awareness material (both in Hindi and English) for citizens and frontline workers;
●   Advisory on mass gatherings and social distancing;
●   Guidelines and procedure to be followed by hospitals including telemedicine practices for patient care;
●   Common Helpline Numbers: 1075, 011-23978046, 9013151515
●   Frequently Asked Questions

3.      While COVID 19 is impacting the entire population, persons with disabilities are more vulnerable to the disease due to their physical, sensory and cognitive limitations. As such, there is a need to understand their disability specific requirements, daily living activities and take appropriate and timely measures to ensure their protection and safety during situations of risk.

4.        Section 8 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 guarantees equal protection and safety for persons with disabilities in these situations. It also mandates Disaster Management Authorities at District/State/National levels to take measures to include persons with disabilities in disaster management activities and to keep them duly informed about these. These authorities are mandatorily required to involve the concerned State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities during disaster management.  In September 2019, National Disaster Management Authority, Union Ministry of Home Affairs issued National Disaster Management Guidelines on Disability Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DiDRR) in line with the above provisions.  Further, recently on 24th March 2020, Ministry of Home Affairs has issued guidelines for various authorities so as to  prevent spread of COVID 19 for a period of 21 days  starting from 25.3.2020.

5.      While the guidelines  issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Home Affairs are applicable to all citizens,  the following measures are suggested which need to be acted upon by various State/District authorities to give focused attention to protection and safety of persons with disabilities during COVID 19.

6. General action points

●       All information about COVID 19, services offered and precautions to be taken should be available in simple and local language in accessible formats; i.e. in Braille and audible tapes for persons with visual impairment, video-graphic material with sub-titles and sign language interpretation for persons with hearing impairment and through accessible web sites.
●       Sign language interpreters who work in emergency and health settings should be given the same health and safety protection as other health care workers dealing with COVID19.
●       All persons responsible for handling emergency response services should be trained on the rights of persons with disabilities, and on risks associated with additional problems for persons having specific impairments.
●       Relevant information on support to persons with disabilities should be a part of all awareness campaigns.
●       During quarantine, essential support services, personal assistance, and physical and communication accessibility should be ensured e.g. blind persons, persons with intellectual/ mental disability (psycho-social)   are dependent on care giver support. Similarly persons with disabilities  may seek assistance for rectification of fault in their wheelchair and other assistive devices.
●       Caregivers of persons with disabilities should be  allowed to reach Persons with disabilities by exempting them from restrictions during lockdown or providing passes in a simplified manner on priority.
●       To ensure continuation of support services for persons with disabilities with minimum human contact, due publicity needs to be given to ensuring personal protective equipments for caregivers.
●       The Resident Welfare Associations should be sensitized about the need of persons with disabilities so as to allow entry of maid, caregiver and other support providers to their residence after following due sanitizing procedure.
●       Persons with disabilities should be given access to essential food, water, medicine, and, to the extent possible, such items should be delivered  at their residence or place where they have been quarantined.
●       The States/UTs may consider reserving specific opening hours in  retail provision stores including super markets for persons with disabilities and older persons for ensuring easy availability of their daily requirements.
●       Peer-support networks  may be set up  to facilitate support during quarantine for PwDs.
●       Additional protective measures should be taken for persons with disabilities based on their impairment who need to be given travel pass during the emergency period and should also be sensitized for their personal safety and protection.
●       Persons with disabilities should be given priority in treatment, instead they should be given priority. Special care should be taken in respect of children and women with disabilities.
●       Employees with blindness and other severe disabilities in both public and private sector should be exempted from essential services work during the period as they can be easily catch infection.
●       On-line counselling mechanism should be developed to de-stress persons with disabilities as well as their families to cope with the quarantine period.
●       24X7 Helpline Number at State Level be set up exclusively for Divyangjan with facilities of sign language interpretation and video calling.
●       The States/UTs may consider involving Organisation of Persons with Disabilities in preparation and dissemination of information material on COVID 19 for use of PwDs.

7.  Mechanism to resolve disability specific issues during the period

(a) State Commissioner for PwDs

●       The State Commissioners for PwDs should be declared as the State Nodal authority in respect of persons with disabilities.

●       They should be the overall in-charge to resolve disability specific issues during the crisis period.

●       They will coordinate with State Disaster Management Authority, Health, Police and other line Departments as well as District Collectors and district level officers dealing with persons with disabilities.

●       They will be responsible to ensure that all information about COVID 19,  public restriction plans, services offered are available in local language in accessible formats.

(b)  District Officer dealing with empowerment of PwDs

●       The District Officer dealing with empowerment of PwDs should be declared as the District Nodal authority in respect of persons with disabilities.

●       He should have a list of PwDs in the District and monitor their requirements  periodically and should have a separate list of persons with severe disabilities who need high support in the locality.

●       He will be responsible for resolving the issue within the resources available and if necessary may take the help of Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society Organisations/Resident Welfare Associations.


Svayam appreciates the government for this much needed step and hopes States & UTs will take timely actions as suggested in the Centre’s Guidelines to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable communities in the country including persons with disabilities.

We also urge members in the community to become Good Samaritans if they have any vulnerable persons in their neighborhood needing urgent care & essential items. Remember, when the impact of COVID 19 ends, what will be remembered is – how we all stood united to fight the virus and defeat it, and our humanity & brotherhood for each other.

Let’s care all, stay at home & fight Corona!

List of State Disability Commissioners & Disaster Management Authorities

Here is the list collated from internet sources about the coordinates of State Disability Commissioners & State Disaster Management Authorities, wherever available, as of 26th March 2020:

Grievances of Persons with Disabilities during COVID19

Posted in Marginalised pedestrians on Indian Roads | Leave a comment

Svayam and School of Planning and Architecture Delhi enter into an MoU to promote Universal Accessibility

New Delhi | 05 March 2020

To promote Universal Accessibility through curriculum intervention and teacher- students sensitization, Svayam on 05 March 2020 signed an exclusive Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the School of Planning & Architecture (SPA), Delhi – a premier higher education institute under Ministry of Human Resource Development, India specializing in education and research, and recognized as the National Centre of Excellence in the fields of Planning and Architecture.

(From R to L) Ms. Sminu Jindal, Prof. Anil Dewan, Prof. (Dr.) P.S.N. Rao

The partnership would help ingraining Accessibility in curriculum of architectural courses in the premier institution, so as to sensitize and expose the future professionals to the need and mandate of incorporating universal design and accessibility in the environment to be usable by all.

On this occasion, Prof. (Dr.) P.S.N. Rao, Director, SPA Delhi, Prof. Anil Dewan, Head, Department of Building Engineering & Management, SPA Delhi, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder- Svayam & MD, Jindal SAW Ltd. and Director, Svayam were present.

Commenting on the collaboration, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder, Svayam, said: “Svayam has always been proactive in collaborating with institutions & organizations, both Govt. & private, to achieve the objectives of accessibility. This partnership will help promote friendship for mutually beneficial objectives. We believe that this will not only help in sensitising teachers & students but will also inspire other premier institutions, especially design and architecture ones, to replicate this model and help build an Accessible & Inclusive India.”

Director-Svayam, added: “Svayam & SPA, Delhi have agreed to encourage co-operation in the field of Universal Accessibility. As part of MoU, Svayam will also conduct “Faculty Development (Teacher’s Training) Program” for the teachers of SPA every year and encourage more research projects on Universal Design and different aspects of making design more inclusive to the human diversity that gets left out in the traditional design. The effort will be to add mandatory sessions in all the graduate courses”

It is also proposed that Svayam and SPA will jointly run an elective course on universal accessibility. Besides this, Svayam shall also provide short-term student internships for the Students of SPA, Delhi, as a part of this MoU.

Posted in Marginalised pedestrians on Indian Roads | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Svayam’s Founder encourages Financial Institutions to support ‘Accessible Rural Sanitation’ at Forum

New Delhi | 28 January 2020

“Accessible sanitation leads towards Independence, Safety, Dignity & Empowerment of all; it is a human right, and when Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan converge, it benefits all,” said Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder-Chairperson, Svayam, while delivering her Special Address during the session, ‘Leaving no one behind–WASH solutions to people with special needs’ at the ‘India WaterCredit Forum’, organised by on 28 January 2020, in New Delhi. She spoke on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) & crucial need of ‘Accessible and Dignified Sanitation for All’.

Photo of Svayam’s Founder-Chairperson, Ms. Sminu Jindal speaking about SDGs & crucial need of ‘Accessible sanitation for All’  at the ‘India WaterCredit Forum’,
Svayam’s Founder-Chairperson, Ms. Sminu Jindal speaking about SDGs & crucial need of ‘Accessible sanitation for All’  at the ‘India WaterCredit Forum’

The annual forum of brought together over 100 participants including policy framers, financial institutions, multilateral development institutions, NGO’s, and other stakeholders from the water & sanitation and financial sectors to discuss the opportunities, challenges, solutions and best practices for enabling safe water and sanitation for all.

Shri Parameshwar Iyer, Secretary, Department of Water & Sanitation, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Govt. of India, was the chief guest at the event. He enlightened the audience on the crucial need of clean water and sanitation and said that its benefits should reach everyone. Also present were representatives from various government, financial and development organizations who had joined for this important Pan-India deliberation on alternative financing for water and sanitation. Leaders from all’s partner organizations included Satin, Muthoot, Cashpor, Dhan Foundation, Adhikar, Gram-Utthan, Sanghamitra, World Bank, UNICEF etc.

Photo of participants at India WaterCredit Forum
Participants at the India WaterCredit Forum

Ms. Jindal empathized that Accessible sanitation leads towards Independence, Safety, Dignity & Empowerment of all; it is a human right. “When Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan converge, it benefits all,” she added.

Svayam’s Founder further said: “Accessibility benefits not only persons with disabilities but also elderly, pregnant women, children, injured & sick. So build infrastructure not just for some but for all. This will lead to Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas”.

She also briefed the audience about how’s three-year project ‘Accessible Rural Sanitation’ is transforming the lives in 5 States: Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka & Odisha.

Picture of artwork - IEC of accessible toilet
IEC created for the joint project funded by Svayam was also exhibited at the Forum

Ms. Jindal also encouraged financial institutions (FIs) to spread awareness in the community and self-help groups about the need of AFTs and encourage members to avail the easy and affordable interest loans to self-help group members for meeting their WASH needs as this would help bring upliftment of the most marginalized communities which eventually unlocks financing opportunities and accelerate progress towards the achievement of SDGs.

Ms. Vedika Bhandarkar, Managing Director of India, provided the welcome address and an overview of India in 2019 as well as what lies ahead, while Mr. Manoj Gulati, Executive Director of India, provided insights and key learnings from various studies done by

Svayam’s two brief videos on accessible sanitation and role played by financial institutions in realising the dream of accessible toilet also attracted attention and appreciation at the Forum.

Svayam’s Short film on accessible rural sanitation


Film on the role played by Dhan Foundation, a financial institution, in making’s rural sanitation project a success.

Accessible SanitationAccessible ToiletsBarrier Freebarrier free homesPersons with DisabilitiesSvayam Press ReleasesWASH | Accessible ToiletsElderlyFamily ToiletsODFopen defecation freeRural sanitationSanitation for AllSugamya BharatSwachh BharatToilets for AllToilets for DisabledWASH 

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

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 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. 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.

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

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.”   

India’s Deputy High Commissioner to Kenya, Mr. Ashish Kumar Sinha (First from Left) with Svayam 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 , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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 | 1 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