Barrier-free society, still a dream for disabled

BHUBANESWAR: Despite the Government guidelines, most public buildings in the State lack basic disabled-friendly facilities and do not comply with these guidelines, denying access to the disabl

Published: 05th April 2012 08:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 07:20 PM   |  A+A-

BHUBANESWAR: Despite the Government guidelines, most public buildings in the State lack basic disabled-friendly facilities and do not comply with these guidelines, denying access to the disabled people.

 An audit conducted in 30 districts by the city-based disability advocacy centre Swabhiman revealed non-compliance with government guidelines and discrimination against the physically-challenged.

Most public buildings did not have basic facilities like ramps, adaptation of toilets for wheelchair users, Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators.

 According to the report, ‘A profile of disability in Odisha: Trends, Developments and Dynamics’, released by Governor M C Bhandare on Wednesday, 69 per cent (pc) of public buildings are completely inaccessible and only 31 pc had some parameters of accessibility. There is no building or public facility which is ‘truly’ accessible, the report stated. Although 23.9 pc of the built structures had ramps, usability was further low as only 22.9 pc had appropriate width, 25.2 pc had non-slippery surface and 26.4 pc were clear of obstructions at both ends and only 21.9 pc of these buildings were at identifiable locations.

 Even as 20.2 pc of public buildings had elevators, only 1.5 pc of this figure had accessible paths to reach the elevators.

Of the 4,265 public buildings which were audited for accessibility, only 5.9 pc buildings have separate toilets for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). In government institutions, 95 pc of toilets are inaccessible and 70 pc, 69 pc and 63 pc of offices do not have ramps, auditory signals and signages respectively.

 The situation is worse in financial institutions. Ninety-nine pc of these buildings are inaccessible as most of them are located on the first floor; 90 pc have no ramps and 85 pc of service counters are not accessible to the physically-challenged. Similar is the case with judicial institutions as 95 pc of them do not have ramps.

 The situation is equally grim as far as awareness, education and employment are concerned.

Although 16 years have passed since the PWD Act, 1995, was implemented, only 6 pc of PWDs are aware of its provisions. Not even half of the PWD population in the State possess disability certificates and on an average, only 17.4 pc of them get disability pension. “The main deterrent is the process of application. Most of the PWDs interviewed said the process was too complicated and some did not know how to apply,” said Sruti Mohapatra, founder of Swabhiman.

 Only 57.8 pc of PWDs are literate. “None of the varsities in the State except Ravenshaw University has received funds from UGC for making the varsity barrier-free,” Sruti added.

 And as far as employment is concerned, just 22.2 pc PWDS earn a living.

The study was carried out with support from the Women and Child Welfare Department.

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