July 27, 2008

Ketna L Mehta: "Designing a Disabled Friendly Inclusive World Class City"

Designing a Disabled Friendly Inclusive World Class City
Imperatives and Issues for Mumbai

by Ketna L Mehta


KEYWORDS:

Disability, PwD (Person with Disability), World Class City.

INTRODUCTION:

This paper proposes a path breaking concept of a completely disabled friendly city, Mumbai. Generally, when one thinks world class cities, we conjure up images of 4 lane expressways, metro trains, skylines, speed trains, Airports, Malls with a art museum or a Zoo. Designing in this paper is considered in a holistic manner which is a synthesis of logic + knowledge + feeling; its being visionary, futuristic and humane.
When people of all socio economic strata are mainstreamed and all have equal access to world class infrastructure, that is indeed a world class city.
The disabled are at the bottom of the pyramid, so far as the government, BMC or the private enterprises are concerned both in thought and in action. PWD are living, feeling, active human beings contributing to the exchequer as an economic component. The author has conducted an empirical research over the span of 12 years and concludes that a World Class City is one where...

the differently abled are given dignity and equality by providing quality infrastructure like access, education, employment, health services and recreation . Just like the animals in the Zoo and the fishes in the aquarium merit a quality infrastructure, so does the 5 lac disabled in this city. According to census 2001, PWD in Mumbai are 5 lacs (3% of the total population, which according to the sector is a very conservative estimate). The paper benchmarks cities globally like Denver, Berkley, Netherlands and Sydney identifying the facilities and infrastructure and proposes a collaborative effort of the state government, NGOs, educational Institutions and the private sector to implement this basic Human Right that the disabled are entitled to as per the constitution.

Constitution and Statutory Provisions:

The parliament of India enacted THE PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (Equal Opportunities, protection of Rights and full Participation) ACT, 1995 which cast obligations on appropriate Governments and Local authorities for creating barrier free facilities.

The Law:

Section 30 stipulates that the governments shall by notification prepare a comprehensive education scheme, which shall make provision for:

 The removal of architectural barriers from school, colleges or other institutions, imparting vocational and professional training.

Similarly, section 38 stipulates the appropriate governments and local authorities shall by notification formulate schemes for ensuring employment of persons with disabilities, and such schemes may provide for:

 Health and Safety measures and creation of non handicapping environment in places where persons with disabilities are employed

To ensure right to employment for PwD’s section 45 calls upon the appropriate governments to provide for-

a) installation of auditory signals at red lights in the public roads for the benefit with visual handicap.
b) Causing kerb cuts and slopes to be made in pavement for the easy access of wheel chair users.
c) Engraving on the surfaces of the zebra crossing for the blind or for person with low vision.
d) Engraving on the edges of railway platforms for the blind or for with low vision; and
e) Devising appropriate symbols of disability.

In protection of the right to have access to public places, the Disability Act in section 46, enjoins upon the appropriate governments and the local authorities to provide for:

a) Ramps in Public Buildings
b) Braille symbols and authority signals in elevators and lifts; and
c) Ramps in Hospitals, primary health centers and other medical care and rehabilitation institutions.

The architects of the disability act were conscious of the fact that for the creation of barrier free environment in educational institution, vocational training centers, places of work and in other public places, special designs of buildings and special technologies would need to be developed. Section 48 of the act calls upon the appropriate governments and local authorities to promote and sponsor research, inter alias, in the on site modifications in offices and factories.

As a follow of the PwD act, the ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, in collaboration with UNESCAP, undertook demonstrative exercises in Delhi to create a barrier free built environment in a 2 sq.km area of Indraprashtha estate. This further led to a preparation “Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Environment for Disabled and Elderly Persons” by the central public works department, Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment. Further a reference was made to all state governments to make suitable amendments in their building bye laws to respond to this act.

The bureau of the Indian standard had already brought out the minimum provision to be made in public buildings for providing access to PwDs, way back in 1983 in the National Building code. The planning commission report on the Tenth Five Year plan also stress on issues connected with accessibility for disabled persons.

Places of Recreation (Theaters, Auditorium, Parks, etc):

Wheelchair Seating

 Applies to wheelchair spaces in auditoria, assembly halls, theaters and similar facilities.
 Accessible seating space should be provided in a variety of locations to persons with physical disabilities.

Barrier Free Transportation:

Every individual including PwDs have an equal right to travel and use public transportation with dignity and independence. It should be regarded as a fundamental right of all citizens, since travel is usually a daily necessity for education, employment, medical attention, entertainment etc. Transport is important in facilitating human communication and face to face meetings. It plays a significant role in economic development of the nation. Constitution and Statutory Provisions:

The parliament of India, on many occasions, expressed its concern about persons with disabilities and enacted law to deal with matters connected with disability. The first reference to disability was brought in the seventh schedule of the constitution, which empowered the state government to make laws with respect to relief of the disabled and unemployable.
Subsequently , the seventy-third and seventy forth amendments to the constitution of India made “safeguarding the interest of weaker sections of the society, including handicapped and mentally retarded” a constitutional obligation as referred to in the Twelfth schedule.

The parliament of India enacted THE PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES (Equal Opportunities, protection of Rights and full Participation) ACT, 1995 which cast obligations on appropriate Governments and Local authorities for creating barrier free facilities.

The Law:

Section 30 stipulates that the governments shall by notification prepare a comprehensive education scheme, which shall make provision for:

 The removal of architectural barriers from school, colleges or other institutions, imparting vocational and professional training.

Similarly, section 38 stipulates the appropriate governments and local authorities shall by notification formulate schemes for ensuring employment of persons with disabilities, and such schemes may provide for:

 Health and Safety measures and creation of non handicapping environment in places where persons with disabilities are employed

To ensure right to employment for PwD’s section 45 calls upon the appropriate governments to provide for-

f) installation of auditory signals at red lights in the public roads for the benefit with visual handicap.
g) Causing kerb cuts and slopes to be made in pavement for the easy access of wheel chair users.
h) Engraving on the surfaces of the zebra crossing for the blind or for person with low vision.
i) Engraving on the edges of railway platforms for the blind or for with low vision; and
j) Devising appropriate symbols of disability.

In protection of the right to have access to public places, the disability act in section 46, enjoins upon the appropriate governments and the local authorities to provide for:

d) Ramps in Public Buildings
e) Braille symbols and authority signals in elevators and lifts; and
f) Ramps in Hospitals, primary health centers and other medical care and rehabilitation institutions.

The architects of the disability act were conscious of the fact that for the creation of barrier free environment in educational institution, vocational training centers, places of work and in other public places, special designs of buildings and special technologies would need to be developed. Section 48 of the act calls upon the appropriate governments and local authorities to promote and sponsor research, inter alias, in the on site modifications in offices and factories.

As a follow of the PwD act, the ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, in collaboration with UNESCAP, undertook demonstrative exercises in Delhi to create a barrier free built environment in a 2 sq.km area of Indraprashtha estate. This further led to a preparation “Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Environment for Disabled and Elderly Persons” by the central public works department, Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment. Further a reference was made to all state governments to make suitable amendments in their building bye laws to respond to this act.

The bureau of the Indian standard had already brought out the minimum provision to be made in public buildings for providing access to PwDs, way back in 1983 in the National Building code. The planning commission report on the Tenth Five Year plan also stress on issues connected with accessibility for disabled persons.

Places of Recreation (Theaters, Auditorium, Parks, etc):

Wheelchair Seating

 Applies to wheelchair spaces in auditoria, assembly halls, theaters and similar facilities.
 Accessible seating space should be provided in a variety of locations to persons with physical disabilities.

Barrier Free Transportation:

Every individual including PwDs have an equal right to travel and use public transportation with dignity and independence. It should be regarded as a fundamental right of all citizens, since travel is usually a daily necessity for education, employment, medical attention, entertainment etc. Transport is important in facilitating human communication and face to face meetings. It plays a significant role in economic development of the nation. People with diverse disabilities (sensory or physical) and reduced mobility (people with health problems for example respiratory, cardio – vascular, joint problems or temporary ailments; senior citizens; pregnant women; families with young children and people with heavy luggage, etc., constitute sizeable number of the population. Since majority of this segment belong to lower and middle income group, it is beyond their economic capacity to use private taxis / three wheeled auto rickshaws or purchase their own vehicle and are, therefore dependent on public transport.

THE GLOBAL BENCHMARK
New Mobility a Publication from USA conducted a comprehensive study of the cities in the USA and arrived at Denver as the most disabled friendly city.

Denver:
It has a population of . 468,000 plus with almost 1 million people living in adjacent counties is America's most wheelchair-friendly city. It offers a multitude of services and conveniences, a fully accessible mainline metro transportation system and exceptionally strong advocacy. Years ago, an NGO, ADAPT made accessible buses their business. The result of its efforts is inclusion. The paratransit door-to-door service runs about 23 hours a day, seven days a week, with no limit on number of rides. Personal assistance programs are available, medical facilities are plentiful, and Craig Hospital has terrific support services for people with head or spinal cord injuries. A wide range of recreational and cultural activities: peerless adaptive sports, both integrated and disability-specific arts programs, active ballet and theater, a symphony orchestra and two opera companies. Coors Stadium--home of the Rockies--is one of the most accessible in the country and, like the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, features universal seating.

Berkeley:
The bay area in general and Berkeley in particular are the cradle of independent living and equal rights for people with disabilities. Berkeley--home to more disability organizations per capita than anywhere else in the world, is number 2 benchmark

Netherlands:
A disabled community in a village close to Amsterdam is a model for disabled-friendly architecture, planning and systems. Accessible transportation system with sidewalks and the works is a dream for any disabled.

Sydney:
Cabs are accessible and a person with disability can independently travel, and even on a wheelchair go trekking or rock climbing. Most of the tourist areas are accessible and a person on a wheelchair can visit each and every site. In fact the prison here is also disabled friendly and the facilities offered make the life of inmates convenient with ramps and rest rooms too with zero barriers.

REQUIREMENTS FOR A DISABLED FRIENDLY CITY:

Access:
This means that everyone can, without assistance approach, enter pass to and from, and make use of an area and its facilities without undue difficulties. The level mobility of a person who is physically challenged is based on the physical infrastructure of a city. Is there an elevator in the building if not what are the options? Stair Lift, a ramp, a hoist lift or possibility of relocating to a house which is either at a ground level or with an elevator. How many times, one can seek support to be carried up and down. Next is transportation systems. Are the railway stations and trains, wheelchair accessible.? All the platforms level is much lower or higher then the train. So what is the point of having one or two Handicapped compartments, when one cannot get inside the same. Its completely apathy and insensitivity for this segment. Now, since lat year, BEST has launched star bus which is low floor with a locking facility for people on wheelchair. It does not cover all the routes, it only plays twice a day at fixed time and in a city which works 24 * 7 does not ply on Sundays. There is no fleet of special cabs with a ramp to freely more about. The Gold cab service started recently has modified only one Versa for a population of 5 Lacdisabled in the city. How many schools, colleges and higher education institutions have ramps, railings and elevators. Even our centre of excellence IIT at Powai is not world class, as it does not have accessibility . For a bright student qualified to get admission would be discouraged due to this daily drudgery of seeking support to gain physical entry. The students and faculty design world class technology and other products, what does it take to design and implement a barrier free campus? And so also offer to replicate their model to other institutions. Our Indian culture is ancient and very progressive. Apparently the forts which were built had a wide, gradual gradient like a ramp, alongside the innumerable steps – for elephants, who carried all the supplies on their backs (Uttam C Jain’s paper on Access, 2002) How considerate? In the modern age, why don’t our architects, builders and urban planners have holistic thinking and planning while designing our infrastructure. kerb Cuts, Sidewalks, Roads and footpaths all to be convenient for wheelchairs. Thus visibility of a disabled person on the streets is negligible. This designing would also assist the elderly to walk. Singapore, USA, Europe, Australia all have visible signages. Special parking zones for the disabled motorists. They self drive in a modified vehicle,park and independently go to their work place or shopping complex. Subways, Streets, recreation centres are all inclusive and its not uncommon to spot a wheel chair player amongst other able-bodied swimming or playing basket ball. Human rights is an issue which needs to be addressed on an urgent basis. BEST has started the Star buses recently and it’s a positive move.

The bureaucrats and officials need to have a paradigm shift from a charity model to a Humanistic Model. The recent BMC elections had a directive from the election commissioner, New Delhi for accessible polling booths, the compliance was missing. Almost 90% of the disabled had to return without exercising their franchise. This is the state of Mumbai.

Tourism
Domestic tourism plays a vital role in achieving the national objectives of promoting social and cultural cohesion and national integration.
The National Toursim policy 2002 attempts to position India as a global brand to take advantage of the increasing global travel and trade and vast untapped potential of India as a destination. However, none of the key areas take into consideration requirements of disabled traveler. Also there are no statistics / data available on tourists’ with disability (both domestic and foreign) visiting places of tourist interest. There is no database maintained by government agencies of the accessible tourist spots in the city. The efforts made by individuals / organizations are also scattered. There is growing demand, for the tourism industry to improve its services to PwDs: accessible transportation, accessibility within hotel facilities and travel operators to provide tailored packages to PwDs.


Universal Design:

Universal design is defined as “the design of products and environment to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design”

In a universal design approach, the user consideration is different as it refer to products and buildings that are accessible and usable by everyone, including PwDs. Rather than providing separate facilities; integral solutions accommodate PwDs as well as the rest of the population.

Universal design means products and buildings that are accessible and usable by everyone, including PwDs. Moreover, Universal Design means ‘design for all’, including people with short stature, tall, obese, frail, elderly as well as young, women as well as men, left handed persons as well as right handed persons. For example, the conventional round handle doorknob is difficult to grasp and turn by persons with hand and upper handle not only benefits those persons whose hands are full, they can open the door with an elbow, forearm or back of the hand.

A wheel chair accessible toilet is larger than a ‘normal’ toilet. But a toilet room, designed with universal design may have larger space clearances in mind particularly for wheelchair users but for with additional facilities: changing tables for babies, grab bars for pregnant woman etc. Besides providing accessible cubicles in a man and woman toilet room, there might be a unisex toilet (family toilet room). This kind of toilet avoids embarrassment when a man escorts his young daughter, a woman takes an older father or a wife takes her husband who is severely disabled. This washroom could meet the needs of people with a wide range of physical limitation.

Employment & Enterprise:
3rd of December is International Day of the disabled. ADAPT of Spastics Society of India organized a Job Fair, where there were 50 candidates with varying disabilities and only 17 companies offering to recruit. It was a good beginning, no doubt, for a city which boasts of being the financial capital and a vibrant city of entrepreneurs, where talent from all over the country and the world flock. This proves that it is still an uphill task. How many progressive HR departments publicly announce themselves as “An equal opportunity Employer”? NCPEDP (National Centre of Promotion of Employment for Disabled People) each year gives the Helen Keller Award to organisations which are ‘Best Employers and which employs maximum differently abled’ – till date, only 10 organisations have been awarded from Mumbai, out of the total 62 companies. A sad reflection, of our fast paced city. There is as per the persons with disabilities (Equal Opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act, 1995, 3% reservation of the differently abled. How many such posts are filled up and how many are given promotions periodically?

Health – Services:
There is marked apathy in the government run hospitals and centres which issue disability certificates. This in-human treatment has to be seen to be believed. There is rampant corruption and in order to avoid expenses in frequent visits at fixed days and time; the non affording PWD also falls in the trap. The system is not at all disabled centric. Information and awareness about various health issues is also woefully missing. There are no insurance policies catering to their needs and no guarantee for source of earnings as well as the higher cost of living. Insurance policies for the disabled covering modifications at home is very much needed for periodic purchase of aids and appliances, supplies, medicines, health checkups etc

Inclusive Playgrounds:
Inclusive Playgrounds are built by a company called National centre for Boundless playgrounds (USA) with sponsorships from the Rotary Clubs and Private Companies. Why should young children be discriminated and not enjoy an outdoor life of a playground. They learn so much in a playground while interacting with children of all abilities, so the design and playground environments reflect the development of children. In Mumbai too we need to increase public awareness of the tremendous need for barrier free playgrounds and how all children, regardless of ability or disability benefit from them.
The mantra in USA, where there are such playgrounds is:
“Accessible is good. Inclusive is better.

IMPLEMENTATION AGENDA:
There are several examples of successful human endeavors which were thought impossible. The Eiffel Tower, an engineering marvel or an arid desert converted into a green belt etc. For any initiative to take off and succeed requires the insight, initiative and a positive mindset. This paper has explained the various issues dogging our city for the disabled, now what is required is the full hearted support and cooperation from all the stakeholders. There is a BMC legislation which mandates all public buildings to be barrier – free. Though it’s a long way off. The strategy would be:
Each ward office has a mission plan for the year and by giving three months for the cost allocation and execution for making their ward accessible in physical form. It is achievable. Subsequently all markets, temples, gardens, schools, colleges, clubs etc in that ward have to be audited along with an NGO like ADAPT, ROTARY CLUBS etc. and after assessing the requirements appeal to each place to build the ramp, railing, access facility. Proper signages will create a sense of welcome to the various visitors. BMC has to declare kerb cuts on sidewalks as mandatory and execute phase wise within one year. All new projects whether metro railways, subways, new complexes have to have international standard accessibility features.


CONCLUSION:
Mumbai has given to India great minds like Mr. Nani Palkhiwala, acclaimed Lawyer and Advocate of Free Enterprise who has contributed immensely to the financial sector- the core of Mumbai city. Yet in his sunset years, bound to a wheel chair he had to be physically carried up at the landmark heritage Tata Headquarters – Bombay House, a reputed conglomerate with huge CSR budgets. Dignity to a disabled comes at a negligible cost, it’s more of a deeper understanding of making our built environment inclusive and granting a disabled the honour of independent mobility. It is more of an attitude and a mindset which can transform our city. A disabled friendly city offering a good quality of life to all its residents is truly a world class city.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Rehabilitation Council of India; “Access For All – Training Manual to promote ‘Barrier Free Environment” August 2005.

Mccoy Cindy; “10 Disability Friendly Cities – Where to Live and Why”; New Mobility

Dobs Jean; “The Ed Roberts Campus & the power of Nine”; May 2000

Nine Foundation – “One World – Voice of Paraplegics” various issues www.ninafoundation.org

http://www.censusindia.net/disability/disability_data_main.html


AUTHOR DETAILS:

Ms. Ketna L Mehta is a Life member of BMA. She is also associated in various committees of BMA since 1990. She is the chairperson of the editorial board of BMA Review for the past 8 years. She is currently editor & Associate Dean, Research with Welingkar Institute of Management, Development and Research. She is also the editor of NINA Foundation (www.ninafoundation.org) newsletter; ONE-WORLD- Voice of Paraplegics. She is pursuing her PhD from SNDT University, of which Welingkar Institute of Management, Development and Research is an extension centre. Her topic is “Market Potential Study for a World-Class Rehabilitation Centre for Spinal Cord Injury in Mumbai. She met with an accident in 1995 and has paraplegic due to spinal cord injury, a permanent disability. She has seen Mumbai before and after disability and thus understands the nuances of the travails faced by a physically challenged person.

Address: Ketna L Mehta
240/11, Shankar Sadan, Sion [E]
Mumbai 400022
Tel: 24071952
Email: ketna@vsnl.com



Posted by rollingrains at July 27, 2008 11:28 PM