Accessibility, an ailing issue for the disabled

Accessibility related issues remain to be a speck in public and private infrastructure development even after the significance of universal design and accessible technology being recognized globally. It is not just for persons with disabilities but also for persons whose mobility is affected by old-age, pregnancy, injury etc. Access to information and assistive technology are also integral to maintaining general accessibility. Many public and private infrastructure designs seem to be ignorant of the responsibility to meet the social and economic needs of the people. Eyeway in Mumbai during the month of May received complaints from visually impaired persons who have been deprived of useful information from the railway offices regarding concession cards, ticket information, rectification of errors and various applications.

Nitin Galande, a financially poor resident of Pune who could have made use of some significant information during his travel, was never guided by the Railways office. Nitin had applied for an online concession form which takes three months to be activated and while waiting for it he had to urgently travel from Pune to Hyderabad. But when Nitin visited the Divisional Railway Manager’s (DRM) office, he never received any information about the offline concession card which could be used in the meantime and still avail the concession.

Subhash Gawai, a 45 year visually impaired person was denied the facility to apply for the concession card stating the service is not available at that particular point in the DRM’s office. Similarly, many more clients called up the Eyeway Helpdesk for similar such issues. This prompted our counselor to visit the Railways office to understand the problem in detail. It was easily cognizable that the cooperation and services offered to visually impaired persons were negligible. Though the counselor assisted these people with desirable information or application forms uploaded on the Eyeway website, this is a lapse at the railway authority’s end that needs a permanent fix.

Traveling across the territory in India is a constitutionally guaranteed right and access to information and technology is guaranteed under the RPWD Act 2016. Such issues are blatant violations of basic functional human rights and of an immense magnitude.