CHENNAI: Visually impaired people will be happy riding the swanky new lifts at the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (NIEPMD). And it’s not because they’re new, but because all of them have buttons with braille writing on them. To ensure that they don’t get off on the wrong floor there are voice annunciators in English. The all-new barrier-free campus that was inaugurated recently has all this and more to ensure that students and staff don’t feel out of sorts while on the premises.
Constructed by the CPWD on a 1,37,000-sq foot area at Muttukadu, it is a picturesque place with the beach skirting one of its peripheries. Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Mukul Wasnik himself appreciated the way the campus had been built as he was given the customary grand tour. “I don’t think there’s anything quite like this anywhere in Asia, for people with more than one disability,” marvelled the Minister.
With ramps at every single entry and exit, it is quite an endearing sight to see every inch of railing and stairway lined with hand rails on two levels — for people with different heights and reach to use. The floor has tactile tiles for visually handicapped persons, so they can find their way with ease. The most impressive part of the massive new complex is that every single toilet is disabled-friendly, with sliding doors, basins with sensors and wheelchair cisterns — which haven’t been introduced in any of the other six national institutes yet.
Minister of State for SJ&E D Napoleon revealed that this had been a pet project of his ever since he took up the portfolio in 2009. He commended the institution and the CPWD for finishing the work on time and for completing it for `7 crore less than the budgeted `38.8 crore, “We are only used to seeing overdrafted budgets, and this is a pleasant change,” commented Wasnik as well. He asked the director of the institute to submit an action plan to extend their services to “all parts of India”.
K M Acharya, Secretary to the Government-SJ&E, announced that the Rajiv Gandhi National Fellowship for SC and ST students to study in top class colleges, would be made available at NIEPMD from this academic year onward. This is significant as the scheme had only found place in premier institutions like IITs, NITs and IIMs thus far.