BHUBANESWAR: In an age when information technology has become a way of life, a section of the society - the Persons with Disabilities - have been ignored to a large extent. Accessibility for the disabled today is not just limited to physical access to buildings but to information, communication and services meant for the public, eminent disability rights activist Shruti Mohapatra said on Tuesday.
Addressing the urban lecture series on accessibility in Smart Cities here, Mohapatra said accessibility is no more an entitlement but a basic right of PWDs. As the Lok Sabha has already passed the Rights of PwDs Act in December last year, the Government should make it mandatory for implementation agencies to incorporate accessibility components in service sectors, she said.
Shilpi Kapoor, founder of ‘BarrierBreak’, a Mumbai-based accessibility and assistive technology company, said there is a common assumption that technology is solely meant for the abled and PwDs do not need or use IT-enabled applications. The Government is a key player in bridging the digital divide that has deprived the disabled section from accessing and enjoying the wonders of technology.
"If an information on a socio-cultural event to be held in a Smart City has to be dissipated, it must have feeds on whether the venue is disabled-friendly or not. There must be an accessible digital platform through which PwDs can gather this information,’’ she said.
Global Chairperson of Disabled People’s International Javed Abidi said stakeholders in the Smart City Mission should ensure that websites, mobile-based applications and utilities should include the accessibility-for-all criteria from the development stage itself.
Development Commissioner R Balakrishnan assured the participants that funds will not be an issue for making services accessible for PwDs.
Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited Managing Director Krishan Kumar said Janpath will be the first completely accessible street in the Capital City. Guidelines have been drafted for the project and the draft will be formalised soon after getting feedback from citizens. Bhubaneswar will also have audio guides at key traffic junctions to help PWDs, he said.