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Panel calls for accessible urban transport system

a person with disabilities seating in front of a desk and talking
© CBM India
Shri. K. S. Rajanna, Commissioner for Disabilities, Government of Karnataka, at the CBM panel discussion during Urban Mobility India Conference 2015

In a bid to impress upon government and private stakeholders, the need to ensure principles of universal accessibility in urban transport, CBM India organised a panel discussion on the challenges of accessibility at the recent Urban Mobility India (UMI) Conference 2015.

An effective urban transport system has emerged as a non-negotiable for economic and social progress of every citizen. The grim reality, however, is that inaccessible public transport and infrastructure are leaving people with disabilities, children, elderly, and those with limited mobility, completely marginalised.

Influencing urban mobility discussion

CBM India recently organised a panel discussion on the challenges of accessibility in urban transport in India to impress upon government and private stakeholders the need to not just discuss issues of urban mobility but also the principles of universal accessibility. 

The event was a part of the Urban Mobility India (UMI) Conference 2015 held from November 24to 27, 2015. The UMI Conference is an annual gathering organised by the Institute of Urban Transport (India) under the aegis of the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. UMI is mandated by the National Urban Transport Policy of the Government of India, 2006. 

The panel discussion by CBM India was the only event at the conference that focused on disability and accessibility with participation by a number of speakers, people with disabilities and representatives from the disability sector.

Need for implementation

The speakers at the panel discussion highlighted the need a strong will and intent on the part of the agencies involved in ensuring accessibility to ensure implementation on the ground.

The Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, under Sections 44, 45 and 46 categorically provides for non-discrimination in transport. The Act places the responsibility on the government to make public transport accessible for people with disabilities. This includes being responsible for provisions of auditory signals at red lights in public roads, curb cuts and slops in pavements, engraving on the surface at zebra crossings etc.

The Department of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), for achieving universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities. The campaign has an ambitious target of ensuring that 25% of government owned public transport carriers in the country are converted into fully accessible carriers by July 2017.

Lives interrupted

©CBM India
Ms. Vinayana, (in the left) made a passionate presentation at the CBM panel discussion during Urban Mobility India Conference 2015
The speakers highlighted that there is a piecemeal implementation of the accessibility guidelines. The presenters shared several examples of ad hoc features, like a stray ramp or a Braille signage, while the larger infrastructure remained inaccessible. The personal experiences shared by participants with disabilities at the event, only strengthened these observations.

Ms. Vinayana Khurana, 21, a young college student with Cerebral Palsy Quadriplegia, made a passionate presentation on how her everyday life in the national capital is fraught with challenges. She faces barriers to access even the most basic services and infrastructures, like post offices. She wondered if this was the state of accessibility in the capital of the country, what might be the state of access in smaller cities and towns.

Mr. K. S. Rajanna, Commissioner for Disabilities, Karnataka, echoed the sentiments expressed by Vinayana and shared similar experiences of his own as a person with multiple disabilities. He called for political representation of people with disabilities to change the ground realities by making laws effective.  

An elaborate set of technical recommendations have been prepared for submission to the government in the coming weeks to influence the ongoing discussions on Accessible India Campaign by the government.

two screens and people seating in front of it ©CBM India
Dr Anil Aneja congratulates CBM India for bringing in discusion on accessibility at Urban Mobility India Conference
The speakers included: Dr. Anil Kumar Aneja (Associate Prof. Department of English, OSD in the Equal Opportunity Cell at Delhi University) Dr. Abdul Razak Mohamed (Professor and Head, Department of Planning, School of Planning and Architecture Vijayawada) Dr. Shanti Auluck (Chairperson, of Muskaan, an NGO working for people with intellectual disabilities) G Shiva Mohan Rao, Madhizhagan and Nagarathna from CBM India. The session was chaired by by Mr. T D Dhariyal (Advisor, Disability CBM and former Dy. Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities).  
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