The PwD Act and accessibility in India

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


As per the recent Disability Report by the World Bank approximately 6-8% of our population conprises of persons with disability. The Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, apart from other things, provides rights to the disabled to have access public buildings, pedestrian environment and public trasportation.
 

What mention does Access have in the Act

 

Chapter V - Education
Governments to provide free education to disabled children till they attain the age of 18 years.

Section 30 of his Chapter says provisions will be made to:

  • Transport facilities to the children with disabilities or in the alternative financial incentives to parents or guardians to enable their children with disabilities to attend schools.
  • The removal of architectural barriers from schools. colleges or other institution, imparting vocational and professional training;

Chapter VI - Employment
Sub Section 1(d) of Section 38 talks about

  • “Health and safety measures and creation of a non-handicapping environment in places where persons with disabilities are employed.”


Chapter VIII - Non Discrimination
This chapter focuses on non-discrimination towards persons with disabilities in various areas. This is the Chapter that covers access issues at large. In sections 44 to 46, it coves issues pertaining to

  • accessibility to public transport including buss, trains and air travel
  • Accessinility in pedistrian environment with mention of curb cuts, engraving on the surface of the zebra crossing, engraving on the edges of railway platforms, and warning signals at appropriate places.
  • Access to public buidings by providing ramps, Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators or lifts;

Lacune of the Act

  • Accessibility is not provided as a matter of right but as a add on based on the economic capacity of the provider. (“…within the limits of their economic capacity & development…”)
  • It is discriminatory in itself as it applies only to the government & public sector. The Act does not even apply to all public use buildings such as theatres, restaurants etc.
  • The terms Accessibility, non discrimination or even Public Building have not been defined in the Act.
  • There are no designated accessibility standards, leaving all to have their own personal criteria.
  • The specific guidance on accessibility in the non discrimination section narrows down the focus to only certain aspects of physical accessibility. It fails to consider access to services and information
  • Lack of any phases and timeframes & extremely poor recourse mechanism
  • There are no measurables to chart the progress or the direction being taken
  • It fails to give direction for polices and regulations that are drafted by other ministries.

Some Recommendations

  1. Accessibility has to be a matter of right and not linked to any issuse such as .....economic capacity
  2. The Act must provide clear defination of Non Discrimination, Accessibility and public buildings
  3. The Act must include access to information and communication
  4. Inclusion of PwD must be crucial to any public spending
  5. The Act must give fixed timeframes and a layed out procedure for monitoring
  6. Punitive action to be taken for non compliance
  7. National Accessibility Standards to be drafted and made applicable all over the country

 

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