3 Dec 2016, Times of India. NEW DELHI: It was a programme organised to felicitate the disabled, but the venue itself underlined the lack of seriousness with which their problems are taken. At the government function to honour outstanding achievers among persons with disabilities (PwDs) on Friday, the ramp leading to the dais was constructed in such a manner as to render it practically inaccessible to physically challenged people.
While describing the experience as humiliating and an affront to their dignity, other award winners, however, said this was not an exception. Most public spaces, they said, were still inaccessible and policymakers seemed not to want to consult them while formulating policies or implementing them.
Hardeep Singh initially declined to go up to the stage, given the steep ascent. However volunteers from the social welfare department assured him and pushed his wheelchair up the ramp. However, they had no idea how to get him down. Singh refused to be carried down, so he abandoned his wheelchair and crawled down the ramp.
Right at the outset, disability rights activist Dr Satendra Singh warned the state labour minister:
"Gopal Raiji, climbing this ramp won't be easy even for you. If we don't address such issues as these, the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan cannot be successful." Dr Singh added that even the Vigyan Bhawan walkway to the stage had not been disabled-friendly when the event to give national awards to PwDs was organised there. "Accessibility is about the dignity of an individual," said Dr Singh.
In a picture that was emblematic of the plight of PwDs, an honoree, 75-year-old Hardeep Singh, who lost both his legs saving a girl from dacoits on a moving train, had to get off his wheelchair after receiving the award and crawl down the ramp to reach his seat. Another PwD, a para-athlete, had to be carried down the ramp along with the wheelchair by four people.
Para-athlete Trivendra Singh felt that India, as a country, was not only insensitive to the rights of the physically challenged, but had a long way to go to make its public spaces friendly for them.
"You have just seen the ramp. This is a common problem," said the sportsperson. "However, we are never consulted about these things. When I was in China to participate in the Asian Games, we were on our own. I am wheelchair-bound, but could easily move around on my own."
The other participants also pointed out how accessing important utilities like ATMs as well as public transport in the city was always a challenge.
Source: Times of India, 3 Dec 2016