All of us must’ve seen ramps beside staircases in buildings, especially hospitals, and even a few residential buildings. As a child, I always played around on the ramp, thinking it was a fun alternate way to enter and exit a building. As I grew up, I came to realise the significance of these ramps— they help the disabled, mostly those using wheelchairs, to easily enter and exit a building.
In retrospect, seeing the ramps in a few buildings was such a pleasant surprise for me as a kid, but it is unfortunate that these ramps are not present in all establishments. According to the Times of India, a survey conducted in Mumbai in 2017 reflected that eight out of ten buildings did not have ramps, and 92% of the ramps that were present did not have the right inclination for easy access.
This is true not only for individuals who use wheelchairs but for every other person part of the disabled community. The lack of resources and basic amenities such as accessible parking spaces and restrooms is the result of sheer ignorance. The fact that easy accessibility for disabled persons is not kept in mind while constructing establishments is deeply disturbing.
Basic facilities like accessible restrooms, office accessibility, sound and light traffic signals, raised floor markings on zebra crossings, and many more, are scarce. What is deplorable is the fact that we often do not take into account the difficulties faced by the disabled community in accessing even the day-to-day necessities like the internet and communication via text. As per the World Bank’s estimates included in the 2011 “World Report on Disability”, 20 % of the poorest people in the world are disabled and occupy the most marginalised and disadvantaged sectors of society. Marginalising and ignoring the fundamental requisites of such a large community is shameful.
A substantial number of children with disabilities do not attend school, and if they do, they rarely progress beyond primary school. The government initiative of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has tried to include accessibility for children with disabilities, however, the practical execution faces quite a few challenges, and the system is neither able to identify nor respond to the needs of these children.
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are often denied employment. Despite the fact that 3% is reserved for PWDs, only ten per cent of posts are identified as suitable. The quota policy even covers only three kinds of disability— hearing, visual and locomotor.
Something else we do not consider is the mental impact on disabled persons, and also the terms we use to address them. They are teased and called disrespectful names like ‘crippled’. Even terminologies like ‘handicapped’ or ‘victims’ alienate them from the rest of society and can have a drastic impact on their mental health.
Morgan Freeman once said— “Attacking people with disabilities is the lowest display of power I can think of.”
Even when we may not mean to seem impertinent, this negligent and irresponsible behaviour on our part causes harm, both mental and physical, to people with disabilities.
Some steps taken in the right direction include the Government of India launching the Sugamya Bharat App under the Accessible India Campaign, which will allow persons with disabilities to upload photos of public spaces which they find inaccessible. The users will be notified once the issue has been resolved. To make the app accessible, sign-language has been incorporated and many more features such as font size adjustment, a color contrasting option, text-to-speech, and an integrated screen reader in Hindi and English. The app will be available in ten regional languages.
Gujarat’s Tithal beach is set to be the first disabled-friendly beach in India. It will be well-equipped with disabled-friendly infrastructure, including ramps, railings, lower height food counters, etc.
Small steps such as these will surely help create a bigger, and much needed change in our society, but there is no doubt that much more needs to be done to make progress and provide this community access to their basic requirements.
– Samiksha Dubey, Amity International School, Noida1 Like