Inclusive architecture is a paradigm shift, says Kavita Murugkar

Updated on Dec 15, 2017 03:27 PM IST

Kavita Murugkar has developed a curriculum for budding architects to design and create a more differently-abled friendly country.

Kavita Murugkar, professor, Dr Bhanuben Nanavati College Of Architecture.(HT PHOTO)
Kavita Murugkar, professor, Dr Bhanuben Nanavati College Of Architecture.(HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times, Pune | ByAnanya Barua

In the lieu of the Accessible India campaign, professor Kavita Murugkar of Dr Bhanuben Nanavati College Of Architecture (BNCA), has developed a curriculum for budding architects to design and create a more differently-abled friendly country. Speaking with Hindustan Times, Murugkar explains the nuances of accessibility, especially in educational institutes.

What is the current scenario of facilities for persons with disabilities (PWDs),especially in educational institutes?

Persons with disabilities have, right from their early age, been isolated from the mainstream. It starts from schooling. There are special schools, but I cannot think of a single example which may be called a truly inclusive or integrated school. Schools are not equipped, not accessible and teachers are not trained appropriately for addressing needs of students with different needs or learning disabilities either. The scenario of higher education is even worse, with inaccessible infrastructure, even in the best and reputed institutes in the city. These students face barriers and discrimination every single day, thus limiting them from equal participation, choices and opportunities for making a good future for themselves. They have all the potential and talent, but the environmental and attitudinal barriers are their biggest setback. Institutes are not empathetic and careless to their needs in spite of the law that mandates barrier-free facilities in all institutes. 

What are the basic facilities these places should have? 

An inclusive educational institute should firstly have a well-formulated policy for imparting inclusive education. Secondly, it should include provisions like an accessible website, accessible parking bays, ramps, rails, lifts, adaption of toilets for wheelchair users, braille signage and auditory signals, tactile flooring, crossing curb cuts and a well designed pavement for the easy access of wheelchair users, accessible library and classrooms, accessible multi-sensory teaching and learning aids, etc. Above provisions provided wither partially or with faulty design would be an inaccessible or disabling environment for students.

  What is the expenditure involved? 

Expenditure on the same would differ based on the size and existing scenario, and cannot be generalised. However, accessibility measures when planned at design stage would result in one per cent to 1.2 per cent of constructional cost. Even for retrofitting, the expense would be negligible in lieu of the independence and opportunities it would create for hundreds of students and teachers with disabilities. There are grants available from UGC to make educational premises accessible for persons with disabilites. 

 What is inclusive architecture? 

Inclusive architecture is a paradigm shift from the conventional design approach which generally satisfies the need of only the able-bodied, leaving behind many sections of the society such as PWDs, elderly, pregnant women, temporary impaired, children etc. Inclusive architecture addresses and incorporates needs of all and refers to broad-spectrum ideas - called universal design, meant to produce buildings, products and environments that are inherently accessible to older people, PWDs, and people with disabilities. Students are poorly sensitised and largely unaware of the technical know-how as the curriculum does not incorporate this parameter in depth and detail. 

What are the highlights of BNCA's universal design research and training centre? 

The centre is focused towards integrating ‘socially inclusive design education’ and practise that to address the needs of all sections of society ranging from children to elderly, able-bodied to the people with disabilities, literate to illiterate, the economically affluent to the economically weak people. As key highlights, we have organised state and national-level seminars and workshops on universal design to build awareness and competency in the professional and student community, conducted access audits for important public buildings and public spaces in Pune, and are conducting research and guiding B Arch students to create inclusive architectural designs. Also, we are associated with PMC to make Pune more accessible. 

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