Svayam & DIAL sign MoU to make IGI Airport Facilities Accessible for Travellers with Disabilities & those with Reduced Mobility

New Delhi  |  20th June 2018

Today, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Svayam, an initiative of the Sminu Jindal Trust, and the Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), to improve the Facilitation for Persons with Reduced Mobility (PRM) and accessibility at existing and future buildings and services at the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI) projects.

Photo taken after signing the MoU between Svayam & FAAS. Photo of senior officials of both organizations.

Mr. Douglas G. Webster, Chief Operations Officer, DIAL (centre) & Mr. O.P. Sharma, AGM Ops (extreme right) with Svayam officials (Mr. Jagmohan Syal, Ms. Mohini Chugh, Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth (second from right) during the signing of MoU.

Svayam is a Delhi based non profit, focusing on dignity and inclusion for persons with reduced mobility through #Accessibility4All in physical & virtual infrastructure and services. It works in the areas of promoting inclusive mobility, transportation systems, tourism, education, health, ICT,   products, etc. It is also empaneled as Access Auditor under the “Accessible India Campaign” of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India.

As a part of MoU, Svayam will conduct access audits and design appraisals of the Terminal Buildings and Services provided to passengers in general and persons with reduced mobility in particular. The agreement also includes sharing of technology,  user testing by stakeholders, training & sensitization programs.  Svayam will hold experience sharing sessions for senior officials of DIAL, CISF, Indian Customs and AFRRO’s, etc.

Regular training is necessary to keep the staff better equipped on how to address the needs of passengers with disabilities and those with reduced mobility. It also becomes crucial due to higher attrition rates in aviation sector. Therefore, Svayam will also provide training to stakeholders involved in providing services at the IGI airport that may include Operators, Government Agencies, Ground Handling Agencies, Airlines, Vendors, etc.

Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder-Chairperson, Svayam, said: “This MoU between Svayam and DIAL will prove to be a milestone in our shared journey towards ‘Inclusive Air Travel’ in India and help make air travel hassle-free for passengers with reduced mobility travelling from and to Delhi Airport.”

“For a long time, a need was felt for creating a constant platform for opening a dialogue between the aviation sector and PRM user groups, and we are sure this MoU will fulfil that need. Our team will not only advise DIAL on improving the facilities at the airports, but also impart sensitization training to the airport staff on how to better address the needs of passengers with disabilities and those with reduced mobility by involving all stakeholders.” said Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam.

The Government of India has notified & enforced the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Act under Chapter VIII (section 39 through 44) details the duties and responsibilities of appropriate governments and in particular covers subject like Awareness campaigns on rights of persons with disabilities among stakeholders, Accessibility, Access to transport, Access to information and communication technology, Consumer goods & Mandatory observance of accessibility norms. The DGCA has also issued a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) on Carriage by Air of Persons with Disabilities and those with Reduced Mobility which mandates accessibility at the airports, airlines and services and regular sensitization training for staff among other facilities.


Posted in Marginalised pedestrians on Indian Roads | 1 Comment

Svayam Founder delivers a ‘Motivational Talk’ at the Base Hospital Delhi Cantt

New Delhi | 12 May 2018

On the invitation of the Base Hospital Delhi Cantt,  Ms. Sminu Jindal, Chairperson-Svayam,  visited Base Hospital to deliver a ‘Motivational Talk’ to the injured soldiers and their family members, doctors and hospital staff, on 11th May 2018. She was received by Major General Manu Arora, The Commandant, Base Hospital Delhi Cantt.

Ms. Sminu Jindal,  delivering the motivational talk at Base Hospital Delhi Cantt

During her motivational talk, Ms. Jindal talked about the initial struggles of her life, and shared that looking at life positively despite disabilities or age is the key to success and happiness.

“When you acquire a disability, you have two options; what you can do, and what you cannot do. Instead of regretting what you cannot do, it is vital that you focus on your existing abilities and see what you can do with those abilities.” said Ms. Jindal.

“Sitting at home like a sad man cannot be a choice. Don’t give anyone an excuse to call you or make you feel ‘बेचारा’ (hapless), she continued. Sharing her own life story, she added, “Due to an accident at the age of 11, I became a wheelchair user for the rest of my life. Apprehensive that others might make fun of me, I did not want to go to school, and instead wanted to study at home. However, my parents ensured that I got a normal school education, so that I could grow and do things like any other child. That way, my parents did not give me any excuse to feel  ‘’बेचारा’ !

Ms. Jindal told the rehabilitating soldiers, “I can only give you an outlook. I always admired the soldiers who fight at the borders for others. When you did not bow down in the battlefield on the border, please do not bow down in the battlefield of life. Life is also a war, so fight it and figure out your own path.”

Ms. Sminu Jindal speaking to officers of the Base Hospital Delhi Cantt.

Talking about accessibility and the need of greater awareness, the Svayam founder said: “The prevailing misconception that ramps, lifts and accessible technologies are only for the disabled, need to be demolished. We all need accessibility for ease and safety. Accessibility is a ray of hope which ensures that we can go out and earn our living with dignity. Accessible built environment is crucial to tap the enormous talents in persons with reduced mobility.”

“No matter how long or dark the tunnel is, a single ray of light gives you hope – and  accessibility is that ray,” she added.

Ms. Jindal also emphasized that Svayam is pressing upon the government to build one accessible toilet in every village with local material and technology. “This will set an example for others to follow.”

“If our village schools have accessible toilets, our retired or rehabilitated soldiers living in the village can go out and teach. This is another dimension of inclusive education,” she added.

Ms. Jindal at the Base Hospital, Delhi Cantt

Ms. Jindal said: “We need to raise awareness. If voices are many, it will create an impact. Can we not add ‘सुगम्यता’ (accessibility) along with our usual demands – बिजली, पानी और सड़क (electricity, potable water & roads) ? The government has to realize that it needs to look at all sections of society. Then only, ‘सबका साथ, सबका विकास’  (inclusive development) will become a reality!”

She said: “The choice of our daily activities should depend on us, and not on our built environment. That’s why Svayam is working with ministries and government departments to ensure our public infrastructure is accessible. Also, merely making government buildings accessible is not enough, private buildings (open to public) also need to be accessible.”

While answering a query raised by a soldier, Ms. Jindal said: “A सैनिक  (soldier) never bows down before an enemy. But today, negativity might be your main enemy; would you bow down? No! you need to have a positive outlook towards life and lot of enthusiasm to beat this enemy.”

Encouraging the Indian armed forces to spread the awareness about importance of accessibility in built and virtual environment towards an more inclusive and caring society,  she also praised the work of Base Hospital Rehab Centre, and said that with good rehabilitation and counselling, injured soldiers and their family members can quickly learn to adapt and accept the challenges before them in the life with a positive mindset.

Major General Manu Arora, the Commandant, felicitated the Svayam Founder, and praised her initiatives of spreading such a positive, wonderful outlook towards life through her  initiative, Svayam. The Major General exhorted the soldiers and their families that there are shortcomings in everyone’s life, but we need to see what we can do with what we have, and what we can add. He also called upon the participants to link accessibility with their life’s missions.

Taking a cue from an article published in India Today in the year 1999 on the life and work of Ms. Jindal, Maj. Gen. Arora called Svayam Founder a person with true ‘nerves of steel’ and marveled at her achievements in the Indian Industry.

Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam, made a brief presentation to apprise the audience of his organization’s major projects and achievements in the area of advocacy and policy reforms to achieve the dream of an inclusive and enabling built environment to respect dignity of human lives.

Posted in Motivational Talk by Ms. Sminu Jindal, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Persons with Disabilities, Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Svayam, Svayam India | Leave a comment

Svayam led delegation meets DG, BCAS to discuss SoP to address problems faced by Persons with Disabilities during Security Screening at Airports

06 April, 2018, New Delhi

Svayam led delegation discussing the issues with the Director General, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS)

Svayam led delegation discussing changes in SoPs with DG, BCAS

A team of stakeholders led by Svayam met Shri Kumar Rajesh Chandra, Director General, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) and his team of senior officials to discuss the challenges faced by persons with disabilities and those with reduced mobility during security screening at the Indian Airports. This was pursuant to the National Meeting of Stakeholders organised by Svayam to discuss issues faced during air travel by persons with disabilities and those with reduced mobility, on 22 November 2017, at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi, and consequent submission of our collated recommendations to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment & Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The meeting took place on 06th April 2018 at the BCAS HQ at Janpath Bhawan, New Delhi. The meeting offered yet another chance to stakeholders to actively participate in the process and negotiate for their demands for accessible, dignified air travel.

The stakeholders were represented at the meeting by Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth (Director, Svayam), Mr. Nipun Malhotra (CEO, Nipman Foundation) and Ms. Smitha Sadasivan (Member, Disability Rights Alliance).

Svayam led delegation discussing SoPs with the senior officials of the BCAS

Svayam led delegation discussing changes in SoPs with senior officials of BCAS

The DG, BCAS, at the outset, gave a brief background of the steps taken by the BCAS and assured the stakeholders that the BCAS would take the right steps in this direction to address the issues faced by disabled flyers. He also clarified that while BCAS deals with the issue of security related protocols, DGCA deals with issue of safety & passenger conveniences.

There was a point-wise discussion on the existing Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) and recommendations by the stakeholders as compiled by Svayam and submitted to the Ministry of Civil Aviation in December 2017. The BCAS officials informed that the Bureau had issued an Addendum dated 03rd October 2017 to the Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) dated 31st March 2014   for screening passengers with special needs and medical conditions. But they agreed that these passengers still face difficulties and embarrassment, and hence more changes are required.  A copy of this Addendum can be accessed here and copy of SOPs here.

Some of the major issues which were discussed included; use of full body scanners, scanning orthosis and prosthesis without invading privacy or causing avoidable discomfort; screening of battery operated wheelchairs, poor quality of airport wheelchairs, allowing airport passes for non-travelling passenger/companion for persons with disabilities, relieving areas for service animals etc.

BCAS officials explained that while “Millimeter wave scanners” though considered safe, require persons to stand in a certain posture, hence it is not suitable for wheelchair users. Other forms of X-ray technologies are not considered due to privacy and radiation issues. Therefore, a mix of multiple security protocols (such as visual profiling, ETD, physical frisking) have to be deployed to scan the wheelchairs in addition to the scanners.

While the issue of prosthesis screening has been largely resolved for cases where the steel rod is discernible, the orthosis has remained a challenge as it uses foam padding to prevent injuries. Presence of foam raises suspicion, requiring deployment of intensive screening procedures to ensure there are no hidden weapons.

On the issue of oxygen cylinders and special medical equipment, the BCAS officials said that they would like to know the best practices from the stakeholders to improve on the screening procedures.

Protocols for screening of service animals is relevantly a new area and challenges were mainly in the areas of soft training of screening staff.  The officials promised to address this issue. It was felt that the availability of “relieving areas” for service animals at the airports was an issue in the domain of DGCA hence this would be taken up with relevant authorities in our next meet.

The stakeholders are requested to send their feedback/ comments, if any on the above issues or any additional issues related to security screening to

Posted in Accessible Transport, BCAS's SOPs for Screening of Passengers with Disabilities, Dignified Air Travel for Disabled, Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Svayam, Svayam Events, Svayam India, Svayam Press Releases | Leave a comment

Ms. Sminu Jindal exhorts Young Indians to work for accessibility at CII- Yi Summit TakePride-2018, Mumbai

10 March 2018, Mumbai

Svayam’s Founder-Chairperson Ms. Sminu Jindal today addressed the CII-Yi: Annual Youth Summit – TakePride 2018, held at the historic Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in Mumbai, along with several visionary speakers fromMs. Sminu Jindal, Founder Svayam addressing CII-Yi: Annual Youth Summit – TakePride 2018, Mumbai across the sectors who spoke during the two-day annual event during 09-10 March 2018. These included Kamal Haasan (actor), Ajeet Khurana (Head – Blockchain & Cryptocurrency Committee of India), Anand Piramal (Founder – Piramal Realty), Arnav Ghosh (CEO – India, Blippar), Ashish Chauhan, (MD & CEO Bombay Stock Exchange), Balki R, (Filmmaker), Boman Irani (actor), Chandrajit Banerjee (Director General CII), Dia Mirza (actor), Dr. R. Mashelkar (renowned Scientist – Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan & Padma Vibhushan Honouree), Gauri Shinde (filmmaker), Krishnakumar T (President – Coca Cola India & Southwest Asia), Lavanya Nalli (Chairperson – Nalli Group), Madhukeshwar Desai (Vice President – Youth Wing Of BJP), Mickey Mehta (Celebrity Fitness Guru & Coach To Femina Miss India Pageant), Radhanath Swami (Spiritual Teacher), Suresh Narayanan (CMD – Nestle India).

The Young Indians (Yi), the annual flagship leadership Summit by the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) is known to celebrate the achievements of entrepreneurs, inspire young entrepreneurs, and mull over the future roadmap. TakePride offers a platform to both sung and unsung heroes/champions who share an inspiring story and leave food for thought for the young leaders of CII-Yi eventually both in the interest of the organization as well as their personal- professional trajectory.

Ms. Jindal spoke at length on the subject close to her heart – accessibility. Around 600 Young Indians (Yi) from 40 Chapters across 27 states listened to her address that touched on her early years after car accident, her struggles in the men-dominated steel and gas industry, and her initiative Svayam and its numerous achievements in making India accessible.

Talking about her accident, she said: “I met with a car accident at the age of 11 as my driver was drunk; I became a wheelchair user for the rest of my life due to severe spinal injury. Initially, I could not cope with what had happened with me at that tender age. I was gloomy as I could not dance anymore, though my parents ensured I lived a normal life and got best education. They got ramps and lifts built at home and school and the college. I was born in an affluent family, but then I thought what about others who do not have resources. That is how accessibility became my passion as I wanted to see everyone with reduced mobility to live his/her life in safe, dignified and productive way.”

She told the highly attentive audience that accessibility benefits everyone and not just persons with disabilities. “Think about an elderly, a pregnant woman, and an injured. We have to accept the reality and be ready for it. Think about arthritis and accidents. Also, India’s 65 per cent population is below 35; think about 30 years from now. Will they not need accessible infrastructure and services? We have to be ready now before it hits us,” she said.Ms. Sminu Jindal's address to Young Indians at Bombay Stock Exchange

Ms. Jindal added: “People retire at 60, but thanks to the improved healthcare, we have longer years post retirement. Due to lack of accessible infrastructure, people tend to remain in the golden cages called homes. So, this is not about only 2 per cent population (persons with disabilities). It is a much larger issue. If older adults get accessible homes and public infrastructure, they will, of course, come out and shop, visit places which not only increases their own happiness quotient, but also boosts our GDP. This is how we can make them feel useful, else they may feel redundant. We are all social animals & can’t live in silos.”

She wondered why accessibility is treated as a sub topic under disability. She narrated the infamous Jet Airways incidence of December 2007 when she was asked to sign an indemnity bond. The signing would have absolved the airliner from all the responsibilities. She had refused to sign the bond and later the airliner had to issue a public apology to her.
Ms. Jindal also strongly raised the issue of lack of accessible toilet in the aircrafts. “These airlines can have first class cabin and luxurious showering room, but not an accessible toilet! Imagine holding your bladder for 6-10 hours in a long-haul flight,” she wondered.

Svayam’s Founder told the young audience how Svayam helped the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to make the first ever World Heritage Site of Qutub Minar accessible, followed by other WHS such as the Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Fatehpur Sikri Group of Monuments. “The footprints increased phenomenally after these monuments were made accessible,” she said.

She also talked about Svayam’s contribution in 2011 Census’ campaign – “Stand Up and Be Counted”. It was the clarion call for persons with disabilities to have themselves enumerated in the final round of the 2011 Census. Svayam raised awareness, so that families did remember to answer question No. 9 – the question framed to gather information about number and categories of disabilities. During the campaign, Ms. Jindal had said that by hiding, person with disabilities deny themselves the right to be citizens and deny the government an opportunity to plan for their empowerment.

Ms. Jindal said, “There is no shame in having a disability. You may have a disability; still, you can be glamourous and pursue your passion as usual.”

She also said that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 has increased number of disabilities from 7 to 21. “This increases the importance of accessibility in built environment.”

Ms. Jindal also talked about Svayam’s international presence. In 2012, the Transport Research Board’s (TRB) Standing Committee on Accessible Transportation and Mobility (ABE60) agreed to establish the Permanent Secretariat of the Triennial TRANSED Series of conferences to be run by Svayam as its sole contribution to the promotion of mobility and transportation for the elderly and the disabled people.

She also talked about small little changes which can make big differences in the lives of people with reduced mobility, such as a proper ramp gradient, wider doors, ‘but most importantly an open heart!’

“If I can, you can, and together, we can,” Ms. Sminu Jindal exhorted the young audience to work for accessibility now for their own better tomorrow.

Young Indians (Yi) Tweeted:


Posted in Access at World Heritage Monuments, Access to Heritage Sites, Accessibility in public infrastructure, Accessible India Campaign, Accessible Railways, Accessible Transport, Airlines discriminate against disabled, Barrier Free, barrier free homes, barrier free public buildings, Census 2011, Delhi, Dignified Air Travel for Disabled, Entrepreneurs, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Persons with Disabilities, Qutb Minar, Sminu Jindal, TRANSED Conferences, Transportation Research Board, World Heritage Site Fatehpur Sikri, World Heritage Site Qutb Minar Delhi, World Heritage Site Red Fort, World Heritage Site Taj Mahal, Young Indians | Leave a comment

Svayam Founder featured on AXSChat

Dear Colleagues,

#AXSChat is an open online community of individuals on Twitter, dedicated to creating an inclusive world who believe that accessibility is for everyone. Every week, #AXSChat features a different guest who is contributing to making the world a more inclusive place through technology or innovating to enable wider participation in society for people with disabilities.

In this series, on 24 February 2018, our Founder-Chairperson Ms. Sminu Jindal was invited by AXSChat team for an online interview.  The live interview conducted by Mr. Neil Milliken (England), Mr. Antonio Santos (Ireland) and Ms. Debra Ruh (United States) focused on a number of issues around accessibility, sustainability, ICT, Smart Cities and Svayam’s contribution towards an inclusive world.

Ms. Jindal spoke at length on importance of raising awareness about accessibility and how it benefits everyone and not merely the persons with disabilities. She highlighted the grey areas in transport sector especially the aviation sector where long haul flights still did not consider accessible toilets as a necessity and why the stakeholders across the world continue to suffer in silence without making a hue and cry about it! She emphasized that on-board accessible toilet isn’t a luxury but a basic human right for persons with reduced mobility!

She also said that youth need to be sensitized as they can become change makers for a more sustainable and accessible world. Ms. Jindal emphasized on the importance of accessible toilet at every school in rural areas, so that the people still not exposed to the benefits of the accessibility are able to experience the benefits and be inspired to make their own toilets accessible. This would also enable the persons with reduced mobility such as older adults to contribute to national building.

Watch the full interview here and continue to support #Accessibility4All

Posted in Access at World Heritage Monuments, Access audit of community infrastructure, Access Audits, Access to Heritage Sites, Accessibility in public infrastructure, Accessible Cities, Accessible India Campaign, Accessible Transport, Marginalised pedestrians on Indian Roads, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Public Transport System, Sminu Jindal, Sustainable Transport, Svayam, Svayam India, Svayam Press Releases | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

CSR Vision interviews Ms. Sminu Jindal, Our Founder

CSR Vision   Volume – 6, Issue: 8, December 2017

An indefatigable accessibility crusader, Ms. Sminu Jindal is a visionary entrepreneur who broke the myth that women cannot lead the big business entities. She successfully took the Jindal SAW Limited, a part of the $18 billion Jindal Group of Industries, to greater heights. In 2000, she founded ‘Svayam’- an initiative of the S.J. Charitable Trust, with an aim to make this world, particularly India, accessible and dignified for the people with reduced mobility. Svayam has worked with ministries, departments and organizations to bring about path-breaking changes in the accessibility landscape in India, including making the World Heritage Site Qutub Minar accessible to the people with reduced mobility.

In a brief chat with Mr. Santosh Kumar, the CSR Vision correspondent, Ms. Sminu Jindal, MD, Jindal SAW Ltd. & Founder-Chairperson, Svayam, talks about lack of awareness about accessibility, importance of making rural India accessible, accessibility as a CSR option, and how inclusive schooling can be a game changer, among other things. Excerpts from the interview:

When people hear the word ‘Accessibility’, they immediately link it with the disabled or disability, while the truth is that accessibility is required by anyone with reduced mobility such as the elderly, expecting mother and the injured. How do you remove this ‘Big Confusion’ and convince people as well as the policymakers about this everyone’s need?

Photo of Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder Svayam

“There is a widespread lack of awareness about accessibility which benefits all” – Ms. Sminu Jindal, MD, Jindal SAW Ltd. & Founder-Chairperson, Svayam

That is very true. Due to lack of awareness, people generally assume that accessibility is only for the disabled. Also, people are either too sympathetic or totally apathetic towards the persons with disabilities. We need to accept that people with disabilities need opportunity, not charity. They are as normal as anyone else, and they don’t deserve any less or more dignity. And disability does not mean ‘inability’.

I think a greater, sustained and robust awareness is needed to spread the message amongst the people as well as the policymakers and other stakeholders that accessibility is for all; it benefits everyone. Doesn’t an accessible toilet help a pregnant lady, an elderly with reduced mobility or an injured, or a patient who just had an operation? Does a ramp only help a wheelchair user?

You have already made a name for yourself in the domain of accessibility, but there is lot to be done. What are your priority areas of action in this sector both at the level of policy as well as action?

Raising awareness is our top priority. Today, India’s 65% population is under 35, which means we will have the same number of elderly population after 30-40 years. So, we need to plan now. Secondly, as India is 70 per cent rural, accessibility is crucial in remote areas and villages. India can be made accessible only when rural India is accessible. The government should add accessibility as a non-negotiable clause in rural schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Gram Awas Yojana, so that a portion of fund is spent on making village infrastructure accessible.

Accessibility is crucial in huge impact areas such as railways, public infrastructure, various modes of transport, tourism and education, as it benefits a large population. So we focus more on these segments.

What do you think about the Government’s mission, “Sarva Siksha Abhiyan” (Education for All)? Does it help children with disabilities?

The Government’s mission, “Sarva Siksha Abhiyan” (Education for All) is a very good idea, but we have to ensure that every child with disabilities get to school.  For this, we need accessible school environment, trained and sensitized teachers, awareness, and accessible school transportation. PM’s slogan ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ epitomizes the ethos of this great nation. But as I said, we need to take along everyone.

Parents of children with disabilities may feel that special schools are better places for their kids to get education, and that their children may face discomfort in regular schools, but they should understand that today’s discomfort will make their children face the world bravely when they grow up; they will be better equipped to handle the complexities and diversity of life. It will also sensitize other children towards the needs of the children with disabilities, so that they will appreciate the differences. This is true inclusion.

What has been your experience of working in the field of accessibility? What are the issues that you come across?

I feel lack of awareness is the main hurdle. That is why accessibility is often much lower on our priority list. Accessibility is also often neglected at the planning stage. If minimum non-negotiable clauses are added at the planning stage itself, we can save a lot of money because retro-fitting, post the completion of a project, costs 25-30% more.

As per a study conducted by our publication for the Department of Disability Affairs, GOI, awareness about disabilities and accessibility amongst the corporate is insignificant. As per your understanding what needs be done to generate awareness amongst the corporate India to enable them to do justice to their CSR budget by focusing on the disability and accessibility sector?

CSR Vision’s findings echo my perception. CEOs are no exceptions; they are not aware about potentials of enabling environment created by accessibility to attract and retain a committed and diverse manpower. They also look at disability as a charity, as opposed to persons with disabilities as equal rights holders. This charity approach is not sustainable. Time has come that Indian CEOs look at persons with disabilities as potential employees. They need to modify their HR policy to make it more inclusive. Researches also reveal that employees with disabilities are more committed, stay longer with their companies, and are more motivated. Companies only need to provide accessibility, and reasonable accommodation at workplaces. The cost for making offices accessible is negligible as compared to the value these employees add to the company.

We also need to work with persons with disabilities and their families, so as to bring a change in their attitude and perception towards life and work.

Traditionally, CSR budget is spent on segments like environment protection, skill development, health, girl child education, etc. After the latest amendments in the Companies Act, areas related to accessibility, inclusive education, culture, disability sports have also been added to the list which can be funded under the CSR budget. However, very few companies consider these new areas.

In absence of any committed action by the Government in the development of accessible infrastructure, what initiatives can be taken by the civil society/NGO to ensure the public infrastructure is accessible in the whole country, especially rural areas?

We can’t say that the government has no committed plan or action for accessibility. But yes, things might get delayed due to bureaucratic hurdles, or simply dye to lack of expertise and awareness. The role of NGOs is crucial in many ways. As I said more actions are needed in rural India, NGOs can help build the right momentum and make it a movement, empower people, raise consensus, and link the cause of accessibility to safety, well being and enhancing the quality of life for all.

You are known as an accessibility champion; accessibility is closer to your soul. You are also heading Jindal SAW Limited. How do you balance family life and work when your pursuit is so big and the pressure is so tremendous?

Accessibility is about quality of life, and giving opportunity to everyone to contribute to the GDP and the National Happiness Index (NHI). I think everyone should be an accessibility champion as it affects all of us at some point of our lives. Accessibility also ensures that old and disabled people live, and not just breathe.

Yes the work pressure is too much, but when your work is your passion, you don’t get tired, bored or detached. I am also fortunate to have a family which shares my passion, and is always there to support me, motivate me and tell me ‘never say die’. I am really very thankful to my family.

And today after 17 long years, Svayam has lakhs of people to support its mission. “हम अकेले ही चले थे जानिब-ए -मंज़िल मगर, लोग साथ आते गए और कारवां बनता गया ” | 

P.S. – This interview was originally published in CSR Vision Magazine and its PDF version is available at link CSR Vision [December 2017 edition](PDF File size 5.32MB)

Posted in Access at World Heritage Monuments, Accessibility in public infrastructure, Accessible India Campaign, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Sminu Jindal | Leave a comment

Svayam organizes ‘National Consultation Meeting of Stakeholders’ on Dignified Air Travel for Persons with Disabilities and those with Reduced Mobility

Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder Svayam, addressing the National Meet

Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder- Svayam, addressing the Consultation Meet

On 22 November 2017, Svayam organized a ‘National Meeting of Stakeholders’ in New Delhi to seek ideas and suggestions for improving air travel experiences of persons with disabilities & those with reduced mobility.  The meet was inaugurated by Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder, Svayam, in the presence of stakeholders, usergroups, disability rights activists and representatives of the DPOs, Parent’s Groups and NGOs working with Persons with disabilities.

Mr. Rajive Raturi, Director, DRI, HRLN speaking

Mr. Rajive Raturi, a stakeholder with disability and Director at HRLN making his point.

All stakeholders, particularly diverse user groups from across the nation, raised their concerns, shared experiences – both positive and those requiring action for betterment, and made suggestions to improve the policy framework and its implementation as well as a consensus for a robust grievance redressal system. While stakeholders in Delhi NCR were present at the event, those from outstation participated through skype and email to share their grievances, ideas and comments.

Stakeholders sharing their air travel experiences

Mr. Faisal Nawaz, a participant with physical disability, sharing his travel experiences

Shri Thawar Chand Gehlot, Hon’ble Union Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, blessed the event with his message due to his last minute official engagement.  Shri Gehlot expresed that the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is committed to help the Divyangjans lead a productive and respectable life, and travelling with dignity and safety is a fundamental right of every human being.  He assured that the Govt. will consider the recommendations coming out of the consultation meeting as it is committed to improve the air travel experience for all.

Mr. Pankaj Sinha, a participant with visual disability sharing his ideas on how to improve air travel experience for persons with disabilities

Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder, Svayam, said: “Over the time, the CAR seem to have been amended without involving the disability sector and also certain laxities have been observed on the part of airlines and BCAS that has led to a strong resentment in the passengers with disabilities.”

She added that this year has been remarkable for the disability sector for the Govt. of India notified the new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2017, raising the number of disabilities from 7 to 21. “This presents an opportunity for all of us to revise the existing framework of civil aviation requirements for carriage of persons with reduced mobility by air to address their issues as well.” 

Picture of stakeholders at the meeting

Stakeholders deliberating on the issues of air travel

“Just imagine the pride we will have as a nation if we achieve our objectives in making our airports and airlines accessible; it will really put India on global map as one of the best air travel countries for persons with disabilities and those having reduced mobility,” Svayam Founder said.

picture of Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth moderating a session

Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director Svayam,  moderating a session

Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam, who moderated the sessions, said, “The stakeholders feel that the Asok Kumar Committee recommendations have also not been fully incorporated in the present DGCA’s CAR on carriage of persons with disabilities by air as well as in the SOPs published by BCAS. So, we hope this meeting will work like an eye-opener, and the recommendations arising from it will bring the desired changes in existing rules, infrastructure and airport and airline & security staff behaviour.”

The discussions and feedback went beyond the Consultation Meet and continued for several days via emails towards preparations of the final recommendations. We deeply appreciate the contribution made by the participants not just during the consultation meet but mulling it over subsequently to arrive at a more balanced draft covering needs of maximum diversity.

Issues discussed:

Picture of Dr. Satendra Singh speaking

Dr. Satendra Singh, a stakeholder with disability discussing the challenges in SOPs for security screening at airports

The stakeholders discussed key issues which still create difficulties for persons with disabilities while travelling by air, and also suggested solutions and global best practices. The list of issues raised included ease of ticket booking and collection of information about specific needs, helpline, info on website, accessible taxi service, knowing the aircraft & its facilities & limitations, 21 disabilities & their special needs, Check-in, Security & screening, Airport Assistance, Prosthetic & orthotics screening, training & sensitization of staff, Dry cell & wet battery operated wheelchairs, ambulift/shoots, on-board assistance & briefing, wheelchair/mobility equipment in cargo, interline transfer, issues with smaller aircraft, safety & emergency mechanism, disembarking, wheelchair/mobility equipment retrieval, baggage collection, Wheelchair/mobility equipment damage claim/repair or alternative, data maintenance of travelers with disabilities, use of right terminology  and grievance.

Supporting Organisations/ Stakeholders:

1. Ms. Jeeja Ghosh, IICP, Kolkata
2. Mr. Rajive Raturi, Adv Ms. Tanya, Human Rights Law Network
3. Mr. Muralidharan, National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled
4. Mr. Deepak Krishna Sharma, Sense International India
5. Ms. Suvarna Raj and Mr. Pradeep Raj (Para athletes)
6. Dr. Satendra Singh, University College of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
7. Mr. Lalit Narayan, PDDUIPH
8. Mr. George Abraham, Eyeway
9. Ms. Shalini Khanna, Ms. Amarjeet Kaur & Ms. Karuna Kumar, NAB India-Centre for Blind Women, Delhi
10. Mr. Nekram Upadhyay, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre
11. Mr. Hector Ravinder Dutt, Association of Spinal Educators & Allied Professionals
12. Mr. Piyush Chanana & Mr. Vikas Upadhyay, Assistive Technologies Lab, IIT Delhi
13. Ms. Smriti Shankar, Muskaan, Delhi
14. Ms. Vaishnavi Jayakumar, The Banyan
15. Prof. V.S. Sunder, Disability Rights Alliance
16. Mr. Jignesh Shah, Freedom Wheels Enterprises, Gujarat
17. Mr. Mohammad Faisal Nawaz, Disability Activist
18. Ms. Sminu Jindal, Mr. Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Mr. Navin Nayan, Mr. Anwar Huda, (Svayam)
19. Mr. Samuel Mani, Disability Activist & Entrepreneur
20. Mr. Pankaj Sinha, Pace4India
21. Ms. Ruma Roka, Noida Deaf Society
22. Prof. Anil Kumar Aneja, All India Confederation of the Blind (AICB)
23. Ms. Amba Salelkar, Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice
24. Mr. Rajesh Bhatia & Ms. Smiti Bhatia, Activist for Dignified Security Procedures for Persons with Disabilities
25. Mr. TMN Deepak Nathan, D3M
26. Mr. Nilesh Singit, Consultant & Disability Rights Activist, Mumbai
27. Ms. Smitha Sadasivan, Disability Rights Alliance
28. Ms. Merry Barua, Action for Autism, Delhi

Picture of Svayam Team submitting the Final Recommendation to Hon'ble Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India

Svayam Team submitting the Final Recommendations to Sh. TC Gehlot, Hon’ble Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Govt. of India

A final set of recommendations for issuing a fresh/revised CAR (Civil Aviation Requirements) by the DGCA (Director General of Civil Aviation) and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) by the BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security of India)  was finally submitted by Svayam Team on behalf of all the contributing stakeholders to Shri Thawar Chand Gehlot, Hon’ble Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment on 14 December 2018 in presence of Ms. Dolly Chakrabarty, Joint Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities for their further action.

The Hon’ble Minister reassured that his Ministry is conscious of the problems faced by person with disabilities during flying and they would take this up with the concerned ministry for resolving the issues.

Here is a coverage by The NewsWorld of the event:

Posted in Accessible Transport, accessible travel and tourism, Airlines discriminate against disabled, BCAS's SOPs for Screening of Passengers with Disabilities, DGCA CAR for Disabled, Dignified Air Travel for Disabled, Persons with Disabilities, Public Transport System, Svayam, Svayam India | 1 Comment