India Task Force: National Centre for Universal Design and Barrier-Free Environment (NCUDBE)

The Centre has constituted a Task Force to work out the details for establishment of the proposed National Centre for Universal Design and Barrier-free Environment (NCUDBE) which was envisaged in the Eleventh Five Year Plan as a national body to facilitate and support the development of universal design and barrier-free environment. 

The Task Force, set up by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, has been mandated to examine in detail the need for setting up of NCUDBE, its structure, possible role and functions, its scope in the R&D in the area of assistive technology, implementation modalities and its manpower and financial requirement etc. 

The Task Force will also give its recommendations on the extent to which it should do R&D in house and support R&D efforts by other agencies. It will also dwell upon the issue of the National Centre's structure that whether it should be set up as an independent entity or under the umbrella of a suitable existing institution like the National Institute of Design or the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). 

The Task Force is headed by Prof. Samir K. Brahmachari, Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and will have members from the National Institution of Design, Ahemdabad and School of Planning & Architecture, New Delhi. The Task Force will also have nominees (one each) from the Central Government's Departments of Telecommunication and Information Technology. The Joint Secretary in charge of the Disability Division in Ministry of Social Justice will be the Convenor and Ex-Officio Member and Director of Deendayal Uppadhaya Institute for the Physically Handicapped, New Delhi will be the Member-Secretary of the Task Force. 

Besides the Plan Document, the establishment of such a Centre is also obligatory under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which India is a signatory. Article 2 of the Convention describes "Universal Design" as the design of products, environments, programmes and services to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. Article 4 of the UN Charter lists it as general obligation to undertake or promote research and development of universally designed goods, services, equipment and facilities which should require the minimum possible adaptation and the least cost to meet the specific needs of a person with disabilities, to promote their availability and use, and to promote universal design in the development of standards and guideline. 

It may be recalled that last month, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had invited proposals from the States for central assistance to provide barrier free environment in public buildings including State Secretariat, Collectorates, Main Hospitals, Universities and other important State level offices to ensure that these are accessible to the People with Disabilities. The proposals have been invited after making significant increase in the annual budget of the Scheme for Implementation of PwD Act from Rs. 15-20 crore annually to Rs. 100 crore for the year 2010-11. The central assistance will also be given to make the Government Websites at the State and District levels accessible to PwDs. 

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