There are more barriers in government buildings than the endless red tape. An access audit report prepared by Samarthyam,the research wing of the National Centre for Accessible Environments,has found that Shastri Bhavan,which houses several Union ministries,is particularly inaccessible to the disabled.
As a part of the Union Urban Development Ministrys action plan to make all government buildings barrier-free for disabled persons and the elderly,Samarthyam has been asked to conduct access audits in all government buildings. Shastri Bhavan,which according to the report receives approximately 25,000 visitors and 10,000 working staff every day,is among the 24 government buildings surveyed so far.
According to the report,Shastri Bhavan does not have separate gates for vehicular and pedestrian movement,endangering pedestrian safety especially for vulnerable groups such as the elderly,persons with reduced mobility and persons with disabilities. There are very few directional sign boards and none in Braille. The Samarthyam team found vehicles parked in front of the ramps along the building despite no parking signs,plus there are no reserved parking spots for the disabled and elderly.
The team also found that steps do not have handrails making it difficult for persons using mobility aids such as sticks and crutches and in some areas there were no ramps for wheelchair users. Glazed tile flooring was observed on some floors which is slippery and hazardous for persons with reduced mobility, says the report.
The team further found inter-connecting corridors were not being maintained and that directional signages inside the building were placed in inconspicuous areas and also difficult to read.
Most buildings we have surveyed lack basic features which can make them accessible. Just having ramps does not make a building accessible,if they can just enter the buildings and not use any of its facilities. Most government buildings dont have Braille signages,have slippery floors and need to come up with an emergency evacuation system in which disabled persons can also be saved, says Anjlee Agarwal of Samarthyam.
However,Agarwal says Vigyan Bhavan,Nirman Bhavan,Krishi Bhavan,the National Museum and the National Archives building have done well.
The facilities they provide are good and they continue to do excellent work. We have surveyed both private and government buildings in the past and have found that even in private buildings,only those which actually employ disabled persons are disabled-friendly and provide access, she said.
Samarthyam will be conducting the access audit in a total of 50 government buildings in the city.
WHAT THE ACT SAYS
The persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities,Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 requires that persons with disabilities and the elderly be provided a barrier-free environment.
The GoM on Equal Opportunities for differently abled persons has also recommended that the Central Government should act as a role model in creating a barrier-free environment in its buildings.