The Centre will identify more than 50 buildings in 50 major cities and make them fully accessible to Persons with Disabilities using retrofitted ramps, disabled-friendly lifts, toilets as well as signage as part of the Accessible India campaign launched by the Ministry of Social Justice on Thursday.
Launching a nation-wide flagship campaign for achieving universal accessibility for the Persons with Disabilities, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot said the Centre will also make 75 important railway stations as well as key domestic airports also fully accessible to the Persons with Disabilities by July 2016.
Four cities from Maharashtra including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, and Nashik will figure in the list of cities for the Accessible India campaign, also christened the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan.
India is a signatory to the UN Convention in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) to take appropriate measures to ensure to accessibility to the Persons with Disabilities. The three-year-old Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, which comes under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, has launched the campaign to improve accessibility for the disabled in physical environment, public transportation, information and communication and knowledge.
Mr. Gehlot said of the estimated 26.8 million Persons with Disabilities, less than half have been provided with disability certificates. “It is duty of government to provide help to the Persons with Disabilities. We are trying to resolve their problems. We don’t have exact information about the number of disabled people in our country. The number available in the 2011 census is superficial. They also face problems in obtaining the disability certificate, which sometimes is not considered valid in another district or state,” Mr. Gehlot said.
In order to remove this problem, he announced that the government will issue Universal Identity Cards which will have a unique number to all the Persons with Disabilities within next one and half years. The cards will be valid nationally.
Stating that the present definition of disability was not inclusive enough covering only seven types of disabilities, Mr Gehlot said, the government has decided to increase the number of disabilities to 19 from the present 7, in a bid to expand the pool of beneficiaries and make it more inclusive.
Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis, who was also present at the campaign inauguration, assured full assistance to the campaign from his government. “In our country, we had many rules for the disabled citizens but there was not a system to implement those. We will make this campaign our mission and will assure that they get their rights. In democracy, the government is responsible for their well being,” he said.
The department also launched Accessible India Mobile App and web portal on this occasion. The app will rely on crowd sourcing information about inaccessible buildings. It enable users to upload a photograph or video of an inaccessible public building such as school or library etc directly to the Accessible India web portal, bringing the problem to the notice of the authorities. The portal will process the request for access audit, financial sanction and final retrofitting of the building to make it completely accessible.
Actor Vivek Oberoi has also extended his support to the campaign and was present at the campaign launch though it is unclear if he would be the ambassador for the campaign.