The theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities for 2012 is ‘Removing barriers to create an inclusive & accessible society for all’. Postal Services comes under essential services but are the post offices accessible to Persons with Disabilities (PwD’s)?
The Department of Posts, trading as India Post, is the most widely distributed post office system in the world. The postal service comes under the Department of Posts which is a part of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology under the Government of India. India has been divided into 22 postal circles, each circle headed by a Chief Postmaster General. Each Circle is further divided into Regions comprising field units, called Divisions, headed by a Postmaster General.Further divided into divisions headed by SSPOs & SPOs.
I sent many letters and reminders to SSPO, East Delhi to make the zone accessible to PwD's but nothing happened. Hurt by this constant discrimination, I filed an RTI to know the accessibility status of all the post offices in the capital of the nation. The results are shocking. In subsequent days, I shall upload the responses of RTI replies from each division in New Delhi here. Please watch out this space. In the mean time, read below the summarized report of this RTI revelation published in today's Times of India:
No ease of access for disabled to post offices
Shreya Roy Chowdhury, TNN | Oct 29, 2012
DIFFICULT TO REACH: The post office at Gulmohar
Park is located in a basement without any rampsNEW DELHI: Gulmohar Park's post office exists in the basement of DDA market, down a flight of stairs in a structure with no ramps or lift. That, however, hasn't deterred the south division of the India Post from declaring it "barrier-free" in its reply to an RTI enquiry filed by Dr Satyendra Singh, professor of physiology at University College of Medical Sciences and doctor at GTB Hospital.
Singh, himself disabled, filed a query under RTI Act in July requesting information from the postal department on the levels of accessibility at Delhi post offices. The reply is worrying as many first-floor post offices have no lifts and many of those declared "barrier-free" have stairs leading to them.
South division claims 65 of their 67 post offices (including Gulmohar Park's), are "barrier-free". The ones at Chittaranjan Park and Kailash Colony, it admits, are on the first floor "without any facility of lift". South division also claims that "ramps have been constructed for free movement of wheelchairs" and "height of all the counters has been lowered for easy access".
West division, too, claims "all the post offices of this division are easily accessible and barrier-free". "The two post offices in Rajouri Garden are both on the ground floor. The one in Janta Market has a very high pavement in front of it and the one in the main market is on a narrow and potholed bylane frequently flooded by sewage water and is slippery. A visually-impaired person can't reach that one," says Singh. The postal department didn't reply to his queries immediately but responded only after a first appeal was filed.
Singh travels 10 kilometers to Vasundhara, Ghaziabad, to send a speed post as the post offices closer to home all are inaccessible. "We only have impairments, it's the society which makes us disabled," he says.
RTI MAN: Dr Satendra Singh at a post office in Jhilmil
North division runs 81 post offices of which 14 are above ground-floor or occupy multiple-floors. As per the division's own admission, "there is no provision of lifts in any post office building". However, the division had written to the executive engineer, postal civil division, for providing assistance as per the Disability Act, in seven post offices (including Ashok Vihar, Civil Lines, Malka Ganj and Rohini Sector 7) first in January 2009 and again in July and September, 2010, "but the needful has not been done yet". Southwest division runs 60 post offices, mostly from rented buildings, and 46 of them don't have ramps for wheelchairs. None of the post offices in the southwest division are on the first floor.
In central division, four post offices are operating from first-floors, "without having the lift" or any "separate arrangement for the people with disability". East division, too, states that "no post office under this division is with the facility of lift" and "no facilities were provided" for people with disability on POs above ground-floor. They say that barring seven post offices (at Krishna Nagar, Azad Nagar, Old Seemapuri, Mayur Vihar, Shahdaramandi, Gandhi Nagar Bazar and GTB Hospital), the rest of their 62 offices are "accessible to all persons with disabilities". Apparently, the stairs (without even handrails) at the PO in Jhilmil Industrial Area are not a barrier.
In the first question, Singh had sought "accessibility status" and explained what he meant by adding parenthetically, "whether accessible/barrier-free or not to persons with disabilities". In reply to this query, the office of the director, General Post Office, informs, "The GPO is centrally located and it is, therefore, accessible for all".
Source: TOI dated 29 Oct 2012 (5th page) and online at http://tinyurl.com/8dbur8c
Next on Enablist: Only dead ends for disabled (RTI replies from North, West, Southwest, East, South, Central Divison and GPO, New Delhi. Watch Out). I also request the readers to send me photographs of inaccessible post offices from Delhi, if any, at firstname.lastname@example.org