Wheels of change: Disability has never deterred her spirit

Sminu has been lauded not just for her business acumen but her unrelenting efforts in making India accessible to all.

Written by Jagmeeta Thind | Chandigarh | Published: October 2, 2014 5:17 pm

Climbing a flight of stairs, using a washroom or visiting a public park is perhaps the most normal of evaryday tasks. However, for many people, it can also be most challenging. And not just for the physically challenged but also the reduced mobility populace that includes the elderly, expecting mothers, mothers with newborns as well as toddlers. “Believe me it is an inaccessible and hostile world out there,” says Sminu Jindal, who was in the city to address a session at the ongoing International Youth Peace Festival (IYPF).

As managing director of Jindal SAW Ltd, the flagship company of the OP Jindal group, Sminu has been lauded not just for her business acumen but her unrelenting efforts in making India accessible to all. The founder of Svayam, who is herself a wheelchair user after a car accident at the age of 11, she has been working to promote accessibility in community infrastructure, by way of access audits and appraisals of the public infrastructure and suggesting the access solutions to make these places barrier-free and accessible to all. “Even the incline of a ramp can be a challenge if not constructed the right way and we see that error in the leading of hospitals,” said Jindal whose own personal experiences have lead to a focused action plan of Svayam.

Jindal said, even though public places are supposed to provide accessible infrastructure as per mandate of laws such as PWD Act, Disability Rights and Law and various other government initiatives, the ground reality presents a different story all together. “Missing railings or lack of elevators, glass doors with poor signage and even the width of a door can be a problem for those with reduced mobility. All this can be tackled by informed changes in design at the time of construction and that can come only with awareness,” said the mother of two.

From working with Ministry of Tourism in their endeavour to promote inclusive tourism, ASI and Svayam jointly received the National award from the Ministry of Tourism for making Qutab Minar the first fully accessible heritage site in India, Svayam is also working closely with government agencies such as NDMC, ITDC, DTC and corporates like ITC Hotels, Hyatt Regency New Delhi to enable access for all. “Stepping out of the house, accessing education, seeking employment or travelling should not be a challenge for anyone,” said Jindal who plans to assess city’s  accessibility quotient soon.

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