Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Inclusivity - thy name is not India

Other countries are more subtle about keeping out people with locomotor disabilities. They make sure there are no ramps and a flight of steps is the only way to get in; so if you are on a wheel-chair, tough luck! Here, though, there are places where ramps are provided, but at ridiculous gradients. (If there are ten steps, just knock off a small portion width-wise and make that part into a ramp.) Even with my power-driven wheel-chair, I can't dream of making it; the users of manual wheel-chairs can just forget about it. But India is a league apart. We Indians with disabilities can proudly lay claim to having faced the following forms of discrimination:

  1. The government, in its hurry to rush through a `Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill' which was riddled with flaws and violations of the UNCRPD, initiates a `lathi-charge' on a group of blind people who were peacefully protesting the attempts to pass the bill in a hurry. 
  2. Pilots of private airlines did not want to take an unescorted passenger with cerebral palsy, never mind that she was going to lecture at a conference she had been invited to. (See here.).
  3. Night-clubs in Mumbai blatantly keeps out a disabled person (See here.)
  4. Restaurants in Delhi deny entry of a guest in a wheelchair, even using some force to stop him from trying to enter the place (See here.).

Let us see how the authorities have reacted to these acts of brazen discrimination:

  1. The police reaction is best described  here and here 
  2.  "I have taken suo moto cognisance of the matter and issued notices to Spicejet and DGCA directing them to explain within 30 days as to what action they have taken to compensate Jeeja Ghosh (the victim) and also to prevent recurrence of such incidents," said Chief Disabilities Commissioner PK Pincha. See here
  3. The DNA of 17/01/14 says this about the incident: Legal experts have opined that the club administration had committed a blunder  by denying entry to Chandran. Advocate Jamshed Mistry said, “A night club is supposed to be a public place for  amusement. There is no question of stopping someone on the ground  of being on a wheelchair. When his (Chandran) friends had booked a table and had paid for  his entry, then the club had no rights to stop him. It was wrong on the part of the staff  to suggest that they lift him. If Chandran wants, he can lodge a complaint with the office  of the chief commissioner for persons with disabilities against the discrimination  meted out to him.” 
  4. Govt. of Delhi has found Keya, DLF Promenade, guilty of Disability Discrimination in its inquiry! See here.

As Stevie Wonder says in one of his militant songs You haven't done nothing!

Some of my activist friends on Facebook wanted to know what matter of penalty should be meted out to Keya and such offenders. Here are some suggestions that could go a long way in sensitising people towards PWD:

  • Have their entire establishment undergo an audit by access specialists such as Shivani Gupta and Anjlee Agarwal.
  • Ensure that they hire a minimum number of PWD on a regular basis
  • Have their front-office staff undergo a sensitisation programme

And finally, as access specialists like Shivani and Anjlee are too few and far between, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment should arrange for such experts to help design and conduct sessions where architects and others could be trained into transforming exclusive environments into inclusive ones based on principles of universal design, who in turn could educate others and start on the arduous journey towards making ours a barrier-free and inclusive environment that does not disable people.

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