With the promise of fighting for the rights of accessibility for the disabled, a few activists are in the process of creating an umbrella online group in the city to tackle the issues in a consolidated manner. The activists conducted a discussion with well-known disability rights advocate Victor Pineda on Sunday to understand the disability laws in the US juxtaposed with the regulations in India.
Based out of San Francisco, Pineda highlighted the history of the decades-long struggle until the enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. “There is a need for clear regulations which need to be developed and there has to be more litigations for which good lawyers are required. Bringing up these cases would create laws. The best strategy is to have more unified meetings with legal experts and advocates,” he said.
Pineda stated that it is vital to understand the content of the legislative measures as well as the executive and budgetary support allocated towards the disabled. He added that the activists would also have to inquire about the administrative and coordinating capacity of the enforcements. He recommended that measures would have to be taken to change the attitude of the general society towards people with disabilities and encouraged more participation of people with disabilities.
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Diagnosed with a muscular disorder when he was only two years old, Pineda’s muscles deteriorated until he stopped walking after turning seven. He needs a wheelchair as well as a ventilator all the time. “We are not seeking any special rights but merely those we are entitled to. By an inclusive approach, the economic capacity of the city can be increased to be more productive which can happen if the best minds come together, even if those are trapped in bodies with disabilities,” he said.
Pineda added that instead of building facilities for the disabled as part of corporate social responsibility, companies should view it as a marketing strategy. Pineda is currently teaching urban planning at the University of California and is also the president of the World Enabled Foundation. Activists Kanchan Pamnani, Ketna Mehta, Neenu Kewlani and Samir Zaveri were also present at the session.
“Rules are there but no one implements them. International outlets, who abide by the rules of providing services for the disabled abroad, fail to do so in their Indian outlets. The biggest problem is that there is no monitoring authority,” said Ketna Mehta, founder of Nina Foundation.
Kewlani, however, pointed out that funding is also a major issue which becomes an impediment in implementing the services promised by the government. “Funds have been allocated by the government. But they never reach us. There are many initiatives that we want to take up but are unable to do so since we don’t have the resources. This slows down the pace of progress,” she said. Kewlani’s PIL against BEST for not implementing norms under the Persons with Disabilities Act had resulted in making public transport disabled-friendly on Mumbai roads.
According to the activists, the two most pressing impediments in running the disability movement in the city is the lack of solidarity as well as implementation of existing laws. Kewlani also pointed out that accessibility does not begin and end with a ramp. “A ramp does not solve anything. What about the rest of the building or washrooms?” Kewlani asked. In a bid to make the effort more consolidated, Amar Jain, a corporate lawyer and disabled rights activist, is compiling the list to create an online group for easier communication.
“There are at least 500 activists for the disabled in the city. We would be building a network with various organisations who in turn would connect us to others they know about. We aim to file a lot of litigations and if this e-group is present, we can all participate collectively,” Jain said.