Accessible India Campaign – Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan

  • The government  launched the “Accessible India Campaign” (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) which seeks to make at least 50 percent of all government buildings in the national capital and all state capitals “fully accessible” for the disabled by July 2018. Similar deadlines have been set to make airports and railway stations accessible to the disabled.
  • It aims to enable persons with disabilities to gain universal access, equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in all aspects of life in an inclusive society.
  • The campaign targets three separate verticals for achieving universal accessibility namely the built up environment, transportation eco-system and information & communication eco-system.
  • The campaign has ambitious targets with defined timelines and will use IT and social media for spreading awareness about the campaign and seeking commitment / engagement of various stakeholders.
  • The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), has asked various State Govts. to identify about 50 to 100 public buildings in big cities and also identify citizen centric  public websites, which if made fully accessible would have the highest impact on the lives of PwDs.  Once identified, “Access Audit” of these buildings and websites will be conducted by professional agencies.  As per the audit findings, retrofitting and conversion of buildings,  transport and websites would be undertaken by various government departments. This will be supported by the Scheme of Implementation of Persons with Disabilities Act (SIPDA), an umbrella scheme run by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) for implementing various initiatives for social and economic empowerment of PwDs.
  • Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities is collaborating with Ministry of Home, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Tourism for creating ‘Accessible police stations’, “Accessible hospitals’ and ‘Accessible tourism’ respectively across the country.  The Department is also coordinating with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting for enhancing accessibility of Television programmes by incorporating features like captioning, text to speech and audio description.
  • DEPwD is also in the process of creating a mobile app, along with a web portal for crowd sourcing the requests regarding inaccessible places.
  • As per campaign drafted by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, at least 10 percent of the of government owned public transport carriers in the country will be converted into fully accessible carriers for these persons by March 2018.
  • It will also be targetted that at least 50 percent of all public documents issued by the Central Government and the State Governments meet accessibility standards for persons with disabilities by March 2018.

BACKGROUND

  • India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).  Article 9 of UNCRPD casts an obligation on all the signatory governments to take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and to other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas.
  • Subsequently, governments of ESCAP region gathered in Incheon, Republic of Korea from 29.10.2012 to 02.11.2012 and adopted the Incheon Strategy to “Make the Rights Real” for persons with disabilities in Asia and the Pacific.  The Incheon Strategy builds on the UNCRPD and provides the first regionally agreed disability inclusive “Development Goals”.  
  • Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities. Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 under Section 44, 45 and 46 also categorically provides for non-discrimination in participation, non-discrimination of the roads and built up environment.  As per Section 46 of the PwD Act, the States are required to provide for :
  1. i)       Ramps in public buildings
  2. ii)      Provision of toilets for wheelchair users
  3. iii)     Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators or lift.
  4. iv)     Ramps in hospitals, primary health centers and other rehabilitation centers.