Barrier-free architecture is the answer for Pune to achieve accessibility, says social worker
Anita Iyer Narayan, believes that like most of the Indian cities, an accessible Pune is yet far from existence, although a dedicated administration seems to be the silver lining. The founder of EKansh, an organisation dedicated to spreading awareness, sensitisation and accessibility for individuals with a disability, Narayan, speaking to Hindustan Times, explains the true meaning of accessibility and factors to take into consideration to achieve it.pune Updated: Dec 25, 2017 17:16 IST
What is ‘accessibility’ in the context of the differently abled?
It is the creation of both a physical and attitudinal inclusive space for individuals with a disability to independently lead a normal lifestyle despite their physical limitations. And, this begins from the childhood. From making gardens and parks that children go to play in accessible, to schools, colleges and so on. Also, the idea of special school in this case defies the aim, because at the end of the day when they go out, it will not be an exclusive space for them with exclusive individuals. In addition to that, able-bodied individuals also need to be sensitised from a young age.
How can a city like Pune achieve physical accessibility?
For this, barrier-free architecture is the answer. In other words, it is accessible infrastructure, which includes roads, public transport, banks, etc. Basically, there are no barriers for a person on a wheel-chair, or maybe someone who is visually impaired, so that they don’t have to stop and ask for help. In principle, such facilities should be able to empower persons with disabilities.Our outreach has been happening since 2009, when we had our first competition for barrier-free architecture. The competition then resulted in a two-day conference. It was then that all this began.
How much accessibility has been achievedin the Smart City project?
For starters, there aren’t any accessiblepublic toilets in the city yet.But, things are changing, especially with the Smart City project in place. And, fortunately the commissioner of the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has been continuously working with us to plan and execute changes in the city.A total of 17 organisations, including ours, is closely working with the government on the Accessible India campaign to further accessibility. We hope a positive outcome is possible in a few years.
Anything specific that might cause a delay?
The problem is that it’s a long process and even if the person on top wants it to happen, by the time it filters down and comes to the people who actually have to make the change, it just sort of dissipates. That is what is delaying the process. The needed mandates and provisions are in place, people now just need to implement it. The lethargy in the lower rungs is the cause of delay in implementation.