For most of us, planning a day out with our friends or family isn’t that much of a task. However, a wheelchair-bound person in India cannot plan an impromptu day out because they have to factor in accessibility concerns. For Srishti and Faisal, two differently-abled persons, it can take hours or even days to find a place where they can hang out with their friends. On a regular day they decided to put Delhi’s Connaught Place to test and tried 5 different eateries to check how many of them were actually accessible for the disabled. While they struggled to find a decent ramp or even a helping hand, they kept questioning guards outside cafes and people at the reception as to why was there such a huge gap in accessibility. Most of the responses they received were non-committal. Some even asked them to look for restaurants elsewhere since they would not be able to accomodate their needs.
The aim of the Accessible India Campaign, for instance, was to make public buildings and public transport less hostile for the physically challenged. 50% of these were to be made fully accessible for the disabled by July 2018. However, two years on after the launch of the campaign, only 3% of buildings have become accessible, according to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD).
Section 44 of the Persons with Disabilities Act lists the norms for retrofitting which includes the creation of ramps in public buildings, modification of toilets for wheelchair users and installation of Braille symbols in elevators. But it is not just about buildings that create barriers for the disabled. There exists a social barrier, where people advice them to stay at home and not venture out in case they get stuck. The constant discouragement might be probably why you wouldn’t spot that many disabled persons in in public places. Dealing with the frequent hostile environment meted out towards them and not finding compassionate people to help them around, differently-abled persons tend to restrict their excursions to a limited comfort area. The constant struggle to get anywhere also robs them of the dignity of carrying out tasks that everybody else takes for granted. It is hard for most people to picture themselves at a loss of conveyance or unable to get to places with comfort, but this why access means so much to the disabled.