Accessible India campaign or सुगम्य भारत अभियान is a nation-wide campaign which has launched by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to provide universal accessibility to the people with disabilities.
One primary aim of the campaign is to ensure an environment such that the specially-abled can participate in all activities in all aspects of living independently. The department aims to do it through making the physical environment, transportation systems & the information and communication systems accessible to all.
Since India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, it was about time that under Article 9 of the UNCRPD, the Government of India takes some steps towards making the entire infrastructural ecosystem accessible to the people with disabilities.
Under the Accessible India Campaign, the states follow the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 under sections 44, 45 & 46 to ensure that there is no discrimination towards the specially-abled in any of the several walks of life.
Built Environment Accessibility
The campaign aims at providing an accessible physical environment to everyone, especially the specially-abled. To achieve this, all the probable obstacles, whether indoor or outdoor, need to be removed at public places such as schools, medical facilities, workplaces, etc. This campaign would cover not just the Government-run buildings but also the private buildings. It will also include stamps and ramps, corridors, footpaths, curb cuts, parking, entry gate, emergency exits, toilets, or any other obstacle which can potentially block the flow of pedestrian traffic.
Transportation System Accessibility
This section would include easing out of the accessibility across the air travel, buses, taxis & trains. The current make of all these instruments of transportation restricts the mobility and hence denies the freedom of movement and active participation from the differently-abled people. The campaign focuses on easing out the accessibility here so that disabled people can use all these independently with dignity.
Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility
The Accessible India Campaign aims to take adequate measures to curb all the probable societal barriers of infrastructure and inaccessible formats that prevent the differently-abled from accessing the information freely available in daily life. Such crucial info would include anything ranging from the ability to read price tags, the ability to enter a hall physically, the ability to participate in an event independently, to be able to read a pamphlet with healthcare information, to understand the train timetable or to view the webpages.
Enhancing the proportion of accessible government buildings
Standards of accessibility should be as consistent as possible with international standards, such as those of the ISO, taking into account the local context. In regards to the built environment, ISO 21542:2011, Building Construction – Accessibility and Usability of the Built Environment, delineates a set of requirements and recommendations concerning the construction, assembly, components & fittings.
Enhancing the proportion of accessible airports
An airport is accessible if a person with a disability has no barrier in entering it, using all the facilities, and boarding and disembarking from airplanes.
Enhancing the proportion of accessible railway stations
A railway station is accessible if a person with a disability has no barrier in entering it, using all the facilities, and boarding and de-boarding from trains.
Enhancing the proportion of accessible Public Transport
The revised National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP), 2014, includes universal accessibility in all the planning and implementation interventions. Indian Roads Congress code 103:2012 Guidelines for Pedestrian Facilities provide inclusive roads and street design standards.
Enhancing the proportion of accessible and usable public documents and websites that meet internationally recognized accessibility standards
Standards of accessibility will ensure the conversion of public documents published as of a specified year. Also, all current sites meeting the relevant International Organization for Standardization (ISO) criteria that we find in ISO / IEC 40500: 2012, Information Technology – W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
The proportion of public television news programs that meet pre-decided standards of daily captioning and sign-language interpretation are in good numbers. Public television refers to programs that they produce, funded, or subsidized by the government.
As per the last census done in 2011, about 2.21% of the Indian population or approximated 27 million Indians suffer from a disability. The Accessible India Campaign aims at making at least 50% of the Government buildings disabled-friendly in each of the state capitals and the central capital as well, with 25% of the public transport vehicles are disabled-friendly too. While the initial deadline was May 2018, it has shifted to March 2020 over time.
In addition to this, the campaign aims at also creating a platform (Website) where people can share their views and hence help the government bodies understand the need.
Individual set-top boxes will also be made available to make Television watching accessible to the visually impaired. The target is to ensure that at least 200 people have trained to speak in sign language over the period. The step will make hearing impaired do not have an issue watching the television too.
The initiative would involve retrofitting buildings, framing such standards for new buildings and transport that they are friendly to the differently-abled, auditing private companies on the ‘accessibility index’ standard, and making all government websites differently-abled friendly.
A ”Sugamya Bharat” mobile app, which can provide information on disabled-friendly public facilities in a city, will also be launched under the scheme.
We have seen in the section above that not all the targets have fully achieved as yet. A total of Rs 354.45 crore has already been released towards making the 1058 public building across the country accessible. The offices and respective departments had a deadline till Dec 2019 for the completion, but it has now shifted to March 2020.
We, as a team innovating hygiene of assisted living, winner of San-Sadhan Hackathon by DEPwD urges you to help us with the cause. Accessibility request means a request for making a particular building or place accessible to the specially-abled people. One can make such a request directly on the official website of the Accessible India Campaign. The website can be accessed here.