Disability-friendly public buildings still a pipe dream

Bangalore City disability Top Story

Accessibility for the disabled in prominent public buildings in the city ends at just the ramps.

Several well-known public buildings in Bangalore are still not fully accessible to disabled people. This is despite the Accessible India Campaign being run since the last five years, with the primary goal of increasing the number of accessible government buildings in the country.

While there is a ramp at the entrance to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Head Office, the main building lacks a lift, braille signage, and disability friendly restrooms.

Karthik A, a disabled man who visited the BBMP office said, “I am not permitted to park near the entrance, and it is tough to go to the commissioner’s office, which is on the first floor. It’s always a little bothersome.”

There are no ramps for entrance at the Town Hall. At the Multi-Storied (MS) building, which has several government offices, there is no Braille signage, tactile paving, or accessible toilets. At the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Court too, there is no Braille signage, accessible parking space and the lift does not have an audio guide.

V Muniraju, Director of Department for the Empowerment of Differently abled and Senior Citizens said that previously under the Accessible India Campaign, the central government had given funds and permission to make 20 buildings such as Arts College, Taluk Office, skill development building, Kannada Bhavan, and others accessible. Work is going on in most of those buildings. To make the next set of public buildings accessible, the department has written to the central government for revalidation of funds. He also mentioned that the next set of buildings would include the BBMP Head Office.

According to Basavraj. N. Kadkol, an architect, retrofitting buildings to make it accessible can be a difficult task, due to various constraints like building structure, availability of space, and congestion, renovating old buildings would need a major overhaul. He also mentioned that old Indian standards of designing were not inclusive of accessibility to the disabled. But now, the norms have changed and all new buildings in the city are built according to the guidelines and space standards for barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities.

Viswesh Sekhar, a disability rights advocate pointed out that Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (the Act) mandates that accessibility is a primary right. He said, there is a gap in implementation. According to him, the myth is that revamping costs too much, but it doesn’t. He also said that most ramps in the city were unscientific.

The Act came into force on April 19, 2017. It mandates that all old public buildings shall be made accessible to people with disabilities within five years of its enforcement. Accordingly, the deadline for retrofitting buildings is June 15, 2022.

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