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According to the census 2011, 2.21% of the Indian population is disabled. These 26.8 million people include 14.9 million men and 11.8 million women with a majority of them residing in rural areas. Among these, 20% of people have physical disabilities, 19% have a disability in the hearing,and approximately 8% suffer from multiple disabilities.[1] Such disabilities often act as barriers for this population when it comes to equal opportunities in various spheres of life. Although the Constitution of India talks about ensuring equality, freedom, justice and dignity of all individuals, the jury is still out on whether this has been achieved or not. This article tries to analyze the current status of accessibility in India for the differently abled and how can things be made better.

India is a signatory to the ‘Declaration on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asia Pacific Region’ (2000)which recognizes the minimum care available for the disabled in Asian and Pacific countries and ‘Biwako Millennium Framework’ (2002) for action towards an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society. It has also ratified the ‘UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities’ (2008). The UNCRPD talks specifically about removing obstacles from buildings, roads, public places and communication services.At home, The Accessible India Campaign was launched in December 2015 which targets making at least 50% of government buildings in each state capital and the national capital along with 25% of public transport disability friendly and raises the number of recognized disabilities.

But what is the reality? The government has, on paper at least, come up with some schemes and projects to increase accessibility while it is important to ask questions about their implementation. 

The 2011 Census found out that 45% of the total disabled population is illiterate and only 8.5% are graduates. This is because 54% of disabled children with multiple disabilities and 50% of children with mental illness have never attended any educational institute. A National Survey Of Estimation Of Out Of School Children conducted by the Social & Rural Research Institute in 2014found that the dropout rate was much higher for those suffering from a disability(28.07%) than the national average (2.97%) in the age group of 6-13.[2]Reasons like lack of funding, physical inaccessibility, lack of trained teachers as well as negative stereotypes are widely held responsible for this number.

In 2015, a United Nations report said that although India has made its education system more accessible, it still has a long way to go.The report talked about how schemes like fees waiver, cash transfer,etc. helped make some South Asian countries more accessible for their disabled population and how there is a need for more policies like these. Surely, if we need to take real advantage of our demographic dividend, education and skill development of this part of the population must be a top priority.

The problems don’t just end at education and employment opportunities but extend to necessities like disable friendly toilets, vehicles and railway stations.On March6, 2018, Members of National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) protested on the streets of Delhi against the inaccessibility of the railways. They met with the Railway Minister and demanded some changes that were promised but were never achieved to make all railway stations accessible to people with different disabilities. Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister,Bibek Debroy has argued that when it comes to accessibility, people leave out the details such as the toilets, water facilities, cafeteria, emergency plans.[3]

The Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016 had promised a number of benefits to the people suffering from some conditions,yet there is a negligible result of it. By March 2018, some states hadn’t even drafted their rights.In data revealed by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability (DEPWD), out of the 1653 public buildings identified by auditors, states had only sent proposals for 647.[4] The DEPWD also revealed, in a conference on Improving Accessibility held in March 2018, that states had also been slow in making government websites accessible(104 out of 917).[5]Ina research conducted by two professors and published by Springer India in 2014, only 12 out of 48 websites satisfied WCAG 1.0( Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) developed by World Wide Web consortium and none of the websites satisfied the WCAG 2.0.(Both WCAG 1.0 and WCAG 2.0 are universally accepted standards for web accessibility prescribed by World Wide Web Consortium or the W3C). It also said that there is a need for awareness among the developers and designers that websites complying with accessibility standards are easier to develop, update and maintain.[6]

Hence, it is not difficult to see that a lot of changes have to be made and steps need to be taken to make sure that the accessibility campaign in India does not die down and the little success achieved gets a boost by rectifying mistakes and ensuring better implementation.

 

[1] Ministry of statistics and program implementation, ‘Disabled Persons In India A Statistical Profile 2016’, 2016, accessed on March 12, 2018, http://mospi.nic.in/sites/default/files/publication_reports/Disabled_persons_in_India_2016.pdf

[2] Social and Rural Research Institute, ‘National Sample Survey of Estimation of Out Of School children in the age 6-13 in India’, 2014, accessed on March 15, 2018, http://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/upload_document/National-Survey-Estimation-School-Children-Draft-Report.pdf

[3]BibekDebroy, ‘An Accessibility Agenda’, 2018, accessed on March 10 2018. http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/divyangjan-accessible-india-campaign-persons-with-disabilities-an-accessibility-agenda-5037992/

[4]Nidhi Sharma, ‘State Governments slow in accessible india drive’, 2017, accessed on March 12 2018. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/state-governments-slow-in-accessible-india-drive/articleshow/58651983.cms

[5]Nidhi Sharma, ‘ No good response from states to make websites accessible to the differently abled’, 2018. Accessed on March 12 2018. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/accessible-india-campaign-no-good-response-from-states-to-make-websites-accessible-to-differently-abled/articleshow/62577894.cms

[6]Arvinder Kaur and Diksha Dani, ‘ Banking Websites in India: an accessibility evaluation’, 2014. Accessed on March 14 2018.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40012-014-0040-x#Sec12

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Written By Pragya Mishra

Economics Graduate

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