Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyaan)

Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyaan) has been launched by the Government of India to make the country more inclusive by way of achieving universal accessibility for all citizens including Persons with Disabilities and enabling them to gain access and live independently.

Background

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) came in to force in 2008.  Article 9 of UNCRPD mandates all the signatory countries to take steps to ensure accessibility to persons with disabilities, on an equal footing with other citizens to a) Physical environment, b) Transportation, c) Information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, d) other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. India is one of the signatories to the UNCRPD.

In 2012, governments of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) region gathered in Incheon, Republic of South Korea and adopted the Incheon strategy to “Make the Rights Real” for disabled persons in Asia and Pacific. The goal no. 3 of Incheon strategy points that an inclusive society can be built only by providing disabled persons access to the o the physical environment, public transportation, knowledge, information and communication, physical environment, knowledge, information and communication. It also says that accessibility to urban, rural and remote areas based on universal design increases the safety and ease of use for all citizens of the society, not just for disabled persons. Access Audits are one of the important means to ensure accessibility. Research and development should be encouraged for production and distribution of low-cost assistive devices.

Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 also provide for non-discrimination in participation, non –discrimination of the roads and built up environment. As per Section 46 of the PwD Act, the States are required to provide for:

  • Ramps in public buildings,
  • Provision of toilets for wheelchair users,
  • Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators or lifts and
  • Ramps in hospitals, primary health centres and other rehabilitation centres.

Campaign details

For implementation of the Accessible India Campaign, guidelines are framed to sync with the Incheon strategy.

Indicators to track the progress of the campaign (as per Incheon strategy guidelines):

  • Proportion of accessible government buildings in the national capital.
  • Proportion of accessible international airports.
  • Proportion of accessible and usable public documents and websites that meet internationally recognized accessibility standards.
  • Availability of mandatory technical standards for barrier-free access that govern the approval of all designs for buildings that could be used by members of the public, taking into consideration internationally recognized standards, such as those of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
  • Number of sign language interpreters.

Key components of the campaign

The Accessible India Campaign comprises of the following key components:- (i) Create Mass Awareness;(ii) Capacity Building;(iii) Interventions (Technology solutions, Legal framework, Resource generation);(iv) Leverage corporate sector efforts including CSR resources;(v) Leadership endorsements.

Objectives and strategies to be followed under the campaign:

Part A: Built Environment Accessibility

Measures should be taken to eliminate obstacles and barriers to both indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, hospitals and workplaces. These would include not just buildings but also footpaths, curb cuts, and obstacles that block the flow of pedestrian traffic.

Objective 1: Enhancing the proportion of accessible government buildings.

  • An accessible government building has no barriers for person with disabilities in entering it and using all the facilities therein. This includes the built environment like steps and ramps, corridors, entry gates, emergency exits, parking as well as indoor and outdoor facilities including signages, lighting, alarm systems and toilets.
  • Accessibility audits based on agreed standards should be conducted in those buildings. In regards to the built environment, ISO 21542:2011 standard delineates a set of requirements and recommendations for construction, assembly, components and fittings.
  • The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities has asked various State Governments to identify about 50 to 100 public buildings in big cities and also identify citizen centric  public websites, which if made fully accessible would have the highest impact on the lives of People with Disabilities.
  • The Department also collaborating with other respective departments to creation of ‘Accessible police stations’, “Accessible hospitals’ and ‘Accessible tourism’.

Part B: Transportation System Accessibility

An airport is accessible only if a disabled person has no barrier in entering it, using all the facilities, and boarding and disembarking from airplanes.  This includes the built environment of surfaces, steps and ramps, corridors, entry ways, emergency exists, parking as well as indoor and outdoor facilities including signage, lighting, alarm systems and toilets.

Objective 2: Enhancing proportion of accessible airports.

Objective 3: Enhancing the proportion of accessible railway stations.

Objective 4: Enhancing the proportion of accessible Public Transport.

Part C: Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility

Access to information creates opportunities for everyone in the society. Access to information includes all information. It includes actions such as being able to read price tags, to physically enter a hall and participate in an event, to read a pamphlet with local services information, to understand a train timetable, or to view webpages. No longer should societal barriers of infrastructure, and inaccessible formats stand in the way of obtaining and utilizing information in daily life.

Objective 5: Enhancing proportion of accessible and usable public documents and websites that meet internationally recognized accessibility standards.

Public documents refer to all documents issued by the central government as well as all state government documents.  They include all publications such as laws, regulations, reports, forms and informational brochures.

As an offshoot to the campaign, Department has also sought Expression of Interest from IT firms to prepare a mobile app in all Indian languages to locate nearest accessible places.

Objective 6: Enhancing the pool of sign language interpreters.

Objective 7: Enhancing the proportion of daily captioning and sign-language interpretation of public television news programmes.

Accessibility Index

Government is also planning for incentive to design disabled-friendly buildings and human resource policies. A new index will be developed to rate companies across public and private sectors for disabled -friendly initiatives taken by them. The proposed index will give ratings to companies for disabled-friendly office buildings, the number of disabled persons on their rolls, investment in training and career development of the disabled staff and the quality of facilities provided to them. An audit of HR policies of companies will form a major part of the index. The index will also assess companies on sensitisation of peers towards persons with disabilities, providing products such as computers and mouse for use, provision of facilities like toilets and percentage distribution in employment of physically and mentally challenged persons. The government will kick off the exercise with a rating of 10 private companies from different sectors including textiles and manufacturing.

Conclusion

With the successful implementation of the Accessible India Campaign, India will join the rest of the world, as an inclusive society with universal accessibility. Physical accessibility will initiate accessibility to education, health, employment and livelihood, which will unleash productivity of 6% population and their economic contribution in nation building.

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