Do Indian cities deserve the 'disabled-friendly' tag?
Two Indian cities, Indore and Jhalawar are soon to be bestowed with the disabled-friendly tag by the government. Kannur was recently declared India's first disabled friendly district. Respective district collectors have undertaken several measures to make government and other public buildings easily accessible for the differently-abled. Let's take a look at whether these cities truly deserve the disabled-friendly tag.
Indore, Madhya Pradesh
Indore city's railway stations now have ramps that can accommodate people in wheelchairs; even city bus stops have made wheelchairs available for those with mobility issues. The city's largest government hospital has also constructed ramps for the use of disabled patients. Indore's collector stated that essential facilities such as water taps at low height and disabled-friendly toilets have also been constructed in these buildings.
Changes don't cater to visually-impaired
Although most acknowledge building of ramps, often ramps are so far-off or poorly connected, that most differently-abled people are forced to use the stairs. Those who are unable to use crutches, crawl from parking-areas to the ramp if there's no attendant. All these modifications provide no relief for the visually-impaired; audio-messages and making information available in Braille will only be undertaken in the 2nd-phase.
Government buildings in Jhalawar are now equipped with ramps and railings at entrances whereas mini-secretariat and courts have lifts. Recently, two schools were opened in Jhalawar for speech and hearing-impaired children as well as other disabilities. Jhalawar's Collector, Dr. Jitendra Kumar Soni, himself had started a campaign for a 'Barrier-Free environment' for the differently-abled.
Definition: Design for those with physical or other disabilities, involving the provision of alternative means of access to steps (e.g. ramps and lifts (elevators) for those with mobility problems). It is also called universal or barrier-free design.
Changes significant and well-received
According to differently-abled people, a lot has indeed been done for them in Jhalawar; it's now mandatory for government buildings to have ramps and railings. According to the district collector a total of 2,000 ramps and railings have been constructed although there are still several banks and offices which need lifts. Kiosks on ground-floors of government buildings for differently-abled will commence from January 2017.
Kannur was declared as India's first disabled-friendly district earlier in 2016. A campaign for 'Barrier-Free Kannur' was launched in 2015 by its former district collector Balakiran. 1,842 public institutions are now a barrier-free environment; offices are equipped with steel railings, slopes on ramps for wheelchairs, grooved tile surfaces for visually-impaired and display boards in Braille. Additionally, parking lots were also earmarked for the differently-abled.
Benefited multiple segments of society
Out of 40,000 employees at 2000 institutions of Kannur district, 12% are differently-abled. Kannur's 'Barrier-Free Environment' appears to be a success as these changes have benefited not just the differently-able but even the elderly. Some private institutions have also implemented these changes.