AMEND BUILDING BYLAWS FOR BARRIER-FREE ENVIRONMENT TO PWDS
Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is celebrated on December 3 around the world to promote an understanding of disability issues. It also seeks to mobilise support for the dignity, rights and wellbeing of persons with disabilities.
The theme of the day for this year is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”. The theme is intended to recognize the UN’s recent adoption of 17 sustainable development goals and the role these goals will play in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities. Besides, it draws attention to how people with disability are excluded from society due to several types of barriers, including physical, information and communications technology (ICT) or attitudinal barriers.
Today, the world population is over 7 billion people. More than one billion people live with some form of disability. Among them 80 per cent live in developing countries and 50 per cent of disabled persons cannot afford healthcare.
Disability is an important public health problem, especially in developing countries like India. The issues are different in developed and developing countries, and rehabilitation measures should be targeted according to the needs of the disabled with community participation. In India, a majority of the disabled resides in rural areas where accessibility, availability, and utilization of rehabilitation services and its cost-effectiveness are the major issues to be considered.
Research on disability burden, appropriate intervention strategies and their implementation to the present context in India is a big challenge.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a 2011 study estimated that 15.3 per cent of the world’s population deals with some or the other kind of disability. In India the disabled population has increased by 22.4 per cent between 2001 and 2011. The number of disabled, which was 2.19 crore in 2001, rose in 2011 to 2.68 crore. As per the 2001 Census, there were 10, 21,335 disabled persons in Odisha. As per the 2011 Census, the total disabled population is 12, 44,402, registering a growth of 21.84 per cent during the decade. The percentage of the State’s disabled population to total population has increased from 2.78 in the 2001 Census to 2.96 in the 2011 Census.
A new scheme District Disability Rehabilitation Centre for Persons with Disabilities launched by the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment is a step towards providing rehabilitation services to the disabled persons. The Government has decided to set up District Disability Rehabilitation Centres (DDRCs) in a phased manner.
Presently, 199 DDRCs have been sanctioned and some new DDRCs are to be set up in the coming years.
Disability should be considered as an important issue by the Government so that this important public health problem can be tackled in the community. The services should cover all types of disabled who need rehabilitation services and should be part of mainstream development in the community. The educational sector should be more inclusive by adapting newer techniques with respect to content of the curriculum, methods of teaching and ensuring that classrooms, facilities, and educational materials are more accessible. Research is essential for increasing public understanding about disability issues, informing disability policy and programmes, and efficiently allocating resources.
Creation of barrier- free environment in towns and cities is responsibility of the State Governments. Urban local bodies, development authorities and other State departments are responsible for creating barrier-free environment in towns and cities. Amendment of building by-laws is the most important step towards creation of barrier-free environment in different cities and the guidelines for barrier-free environment may be referred from Bureau of Indian Standards, Ministry of Urban Development guidelines etc. The barrier-free design guidelines will help considerably towards greater independence of not only wheelchair users, but also hopefully, the elderly, the visually or hearing impaired, children, and indeed a broad spectrum of the community. In order to create a barrier-free environment in consonance with the provisions of the Act, the Government of India (Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment) is currently engaged in the process of amending/modifying the existing building by-laws which would be applicable to all buildings and facilities used by the public.
The Odisha State Government has enacted Persons with Disabilities (Equal opportunities, Protection of right and full participation) Odisha Rules, 2003. As per the rules, the buildings, places and transportation systems for public use will be made barrier free. Provision of barrier-free design has been incorporated in the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) building regulation. But in Bhubaneswar, a majority of the schools and colleges are not barrier free. Public places are not user friendly for the disabled. Lack of disabled friendly toilets in public places is a big barrier for the disabled.
A set of design guidelines should be prepared in the Smart City planning process. These guidelines required that all public buildings, public places and all connecting routes should be designed so as to allow barrier-free access and mobility for the disabled. It is highly recommended to implement the policies that will help the persons with disability to move and work in a safe environment. An important aim of the society is to integrate persons with disabilities in the society so that they can actively participate in society and lead a normal life. Ideally, a disabled person should be able to commute between home, work place and other destinations with independence, convenience and safety. The more persons with disabilities are able to access physical facilities, the more they will be part of the social mainstream.
Persons with disability are an integral part of the society. But their physical disability distinguishes them from the rest of the society. When the disabled persons are made to participate fully in all activities of the community and enjoy the fullness of life, they will feel fully integrated in society. Therefore the differently able must be empowered to understand, choose and manage independent living. They should provide the basis for establishing the specific education measures required to achieve the right to access quality education on the basis of equality of opportunity for all for a disability-inclusive development.