The One Day ‘Accessible India Campaign Workshop’ was inaugurated this morning by the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawarchand Gehlot and Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis at the Yashwantrao Chavan Auditorium, Mumbai. The purpose of the Workshop was to brainstorm on accessibility issues to make urban India disabled friendly by the middle of 2016.
The Centre has asked each state to identify 50-100 public buildings in major cities to be made easily accessible for Persons with Disabilities under the ambitious ‘Accessible India Campaign’ also known as ‘Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan’.
Speaking at the inauguration of a day long workshop on accessibility in Mumbai on Thursday, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawarchand Gehlot said the government was working with renewed vigour to implement policies drawn up for the benefit of Persons with Disabilities. He said “Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan has ambitious targets with well defined timelines and we have sought cooperation of all the states in implementing it”.
The Minister said the Centre has drawn up a plan to identify at least 50 most important public buildings in 26 major metro cities and state capitals and at least 25 buildings in 22 other cities and capitals of smaller states and Union Territories. Four cities from Maharashtra viz. Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur and Nashik figure in the list of cities for Accessible India Campaign.
Mr. Gehlot said the identified buildings will then be made fully accessible to Persons with Disabilities via retrofitting of ramps, disabled friendly lifts, toilets as well as signages. In addition, 75 important Railway Stations as well as all the important domestic airports will be made fully accessible by July 2016.
Universal ID cards for Persons with Disabilities
Mr Gehlot said, of the 26.8 million Persons with Disabilities, less than half have been provided with disability certificates. “The thrust is on inclusiveness. The present problem with the disability certificate is that it is not universally recognized. A certificate issued in one district or state is not recognized in another state or district” he observed. To overcome this problem, the Minister stated that the Government has decided to issue Universal Identity Cards having Unique number to all the Persons with Disability within next one and a half year.
The Minister also said that the present definition of disability was not inclusive enough as it covered only seven types of disabilities. He said, the government has decided to increase the number of disabilities to 19 from the present 7, in a bid to expand the pool of beneficiaries and make it more inclusive.
Speaking on the occasion, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said that the governments had the primary responsibility of creating an accessible environment for the Persons with Disabilities. He observed that, even though there were many laws and policies protecting the rights of Persons with Disabilities, the implementation at the ground level had been far from being satisfactory.
Vivek Oberoi lends his support for Accessible India Campaign
Bollywood Actor and social activist Vivek Oberoi, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Krishan Pal Gurjar, Maharashtra Ministers Diwakar Raote and Raj Kumar Badole, Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment, Lov Verma, experts on accessibility issues and representatives of NGOs were among those present.
Among the highlight of the Workshop was the rendering of the National Anthem in sign language by the Helen Keller Institute of Deaf and Deafblind, Mumbai.