Accessible Places Promote Self-Reliance
Disability or impairment can afflict any person, young or old. While some are born with a disability, others encounter untoward incidents that result in disability. Accidental injuries, age-related disabilities or genetically developed impairments are therefore a part of life.
Sensitizing Ourselves to the Need of Others
Consider these situations - at the bottom of a flight of stairs stand a person with a broken leg, a parent with a toddler in a pram and an elderly person who is unable to climb. While these conditions are not too severe, they help us perceive better how certain circumstances require external assistance to perform even basic routine activities.
In India, there are 26.8 million people with disabilities (according to the 2011 census), who are dependent on a family member or a care worker for their needs.
Dearth of Accessible Infrastructure
The infrastructure in our country is a reflection of our lack of sensitization towards the needs of the people with disabilities. The public transport system is not accessible for wheelchair users making it difficult for them to travel. Many of them are forced to confine themselves to their homes because facilities such as ramps or slopes are not prevalent.
The Persons with Disabilities Act, 2012 emphasizes on equality and non-discrimination, which extends to all disability categories. Due to increasing awareness, the needs of people with disability are now being acknowledged.
Government Initiatives - An Encouraging Step Forward
The Maharashtra Government’s directorate of Information Technology has launched an app called Accessible Places. Using this app, disabled-friendly places can be found within the state. This initiative, if adopted in other states, has great potential of being an aid to people across the country.
<p">Municipal corporations and other civic bodies are striving to make cities accessible. Lucknow is on its way to become India’s first disabled-friendly city, a model for the rest of the country to follow. Ramps and handrails are being installed across the city, along with auditory traffic signals at major junctions and parking spots are reserved for people with disability.</p">
Our Role as Responsible Citizens
It is important to understand that people with disabilities are to be treated with the respect they deserve. While it is our duty to avoid pointing or commenting at their disabilities, we must also avoid over-indulgent or patronizing talks.
If you are talking to a person in a wheelchair, kneel or pull a chair up to them. Do not touch or push the wheelchair without asking first.
If you are talking to a person with cognitive or intellectual disabilities, be patient. Go to a quiet location with minimum distractions, and give them time to process and respond to your communication.
Developing a disability-friendly environment and sensitizing the society towards the different needs of others are essential for equality and inclusive progression. People with disabilities can be empowered to become self-reliant only if we facilitate an ecosystem where they are comfortable.