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Ensure friendly environ to PwDs in BBSR
The United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is annually observed on December 3 to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. The aim of the day is to encourage a better understanding of people affected by a disability together with helping to make people more aware of the rights, dignity and welfare of disabled people, as well as raise awareness about the benefits of integrating disabled persons into every aspect of life.
The theme for this year’s IDPD is ‘Transformation towards Sustainable and Resilient Society for all.’ This theme focuses on the enabling conditions for the transformative changes envisaged in the 2030 development agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Odisha Government has enacted Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, Protection of right and full participation) Odisha Rules, 2003. As per the rules, the buildings, places and transportation systems for public use will be made barrier free.
Disabled persons encounter many obstacles that prevent them from moving about freely and safely. Therefore, while designing the building environment, adequate space should be allocated for persons using mobility devices, like wheelchairs, crutches and walkers, as well as those walking with the assistance of other persons.
Smart Cities Mission is the greatest opportunity to ensure inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in all new developments that will now take place in India. However, the Smart Cities Mission had until now been called non-inclusive for the disabilities. The Smart City Mission in India is to improve the quality of life in 100 fast growing urban centers, including Bhubaneswar.
The aim is to increase all citizens quality of life and to improve the efficiency and quality of the services provided by city planning authorities. Smart cities can be a place where the disabled feel free to move in public places. Besides, the Smart City should provide more inclusive environment for the disabled people to participate in the smart environment. For example, a wheelchair user going to the shopping, public places, railway stations and airports should be able to identify the ideal route to the particular area. The open spaces can be designed in such a manner that they can be used by everyone. This approach to the Smart City planning process will benefit the disabled persons. But in Bhubaneswar, a majority of the public places are not barrier free. Lack of disabled friendly toilets in public places is a big barrier for the disabled. However, there are proposals to provide barrier -free access in Government buildings in the city. These include the Jaydev Bhavan, Hare Krishna Mahatab State Library, the Heads of Departments Building, State Museum, Secretariat, Capital Hospital, Commissionerate Police, Rabindra Mandap, Rajdhani College, BJB Autonomous College and the Rajiv Bhawan. The Indira Gandhi Park and the Biju Patnaik Park are also included in the list. Besides, a set of design guidelines should be prepared in the Smart City planning process.
All public buildings, public places and all connecting routes should be designed to allow barrier-free access and mobility for the disabled. It is highly recommended to implement the policies that will help the persons with disability to move and work in a safe environment. In the Smart City planning process, the barrier- free city map can be prepared and made available in the internet and people with disabilities can use it to create their own barrier-free route for reaching their desired destination quickly and safely without anybody’s help.
At least 2-5 per cent of the residential buildings in the city should be made accessible to persons with disabilities by providing, disabled-friendly lifts, toilets as well as signage. In order to meet the need of the particularly disabled people in housing, the house should be as barrier-free as possible. Before building any apartment house for the handicapped, it is advisable to note street conditions and access to transportation. Besides, small-scale modifications within the housing complexes like provision of ramps for wheel chair may be required to get in and out of their homes. For the convenience of wheelchair-bound persons, the authority should provide lifts and widen the doorway for them as far as practicable.
The Government of India has taken the responsibility of providing the optimal environment to ensure full participation of the persons with disabilities.
In this context, the Government has introduced a number of programmes, schemes and facilities for the welfare of the disabled. Urban local bodies, development authorities and other State departments are responsible for creating barrier-free built environment in towns and cities. Amendment of building by-laws is the most important step towards creation of barrier-free built environment in different cities and the guidelines for barrier-free environment may be referred from the Bureau of Indian Standards, the Ministry of Urban Development guidelines etc. The barrier-free design guidelines will help considerably towards greater independence of not only wheelchair users, but also hopefully, the elderly, the visually or hearing impaired, children, and indeed, a broad spectrum of the community.
Persons with disability are an integral part of the society. But their physical disability distinguishes them from the rest of the society. There is a need to work together with people, technical personnel and Government organisations to promote barrier-free smart development that will make the city comfortable for everyone to live and work. Builders and developers should implement disabled-friendly guidelines within and outside buildings to make them exclusively, barrier free. Many people are still unaware of the rights of the disabled people. To ensure the overall implementation of these acts, the disabled persons need to be more active and demand for proper implementation of the disabilities Act.
The persons with disabilities need special care in the society. With required assistance they can contribute to the wellbeing of a nation in several ways.
(Dr Praharaj teaches in Department of Architecture, College of Engineering and Technology, Bhubaneswar)
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