Accessible and barrier free society can only be a truly inclusive society
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To, Dr Manmohan Singh Hon’ble Prime Minister of India Sub: Accessible and barrier free society can only be a truly inclusive society
Dear Sir, In the wake of India ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2007, it has become incumbent on India’s part, under the established and recognized international human right norms, to harmonise all its relevant domestic laws and policies with this international treaty. Persons with disabilities still continue to encounter umpteen barriers on road, in built environment, and in transport (physical), attitudinal (societal) and inaccess to information and technologies (E-inaccessibility). You may kindly appreciate that although well over 16 years have elapsed since the PWD Act came into force, the status of implementation of this Act across the nation causes acute concern. Accessibility and inclusion of PwD are fundamental rights recognized by the CRPD and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. This year the theme for International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPwD) is ‘Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.” To commemorate the United Nation’s observance day we want that people with disability are seen as citizens first and then as consumers of healthcare, rehabilitation or social services. As citizens in democratic society they should have the same right to participate, access to the same range of options, degree of freedom, control and self-determination in everyday life. These demands require the removal of infrastructural, institutional and attitudinal barriers and the adoption of the Universal Design principle. We demand the same choices and control in our every-day lives that every other person has. We want to grow up in our families, go to schools, use the same public transport, and work in jobs according to our education, talent and expertise and raise families of our own. We want to be regarded as ordinary people sharing the same need to feel included, recognized and loved. We need to organize and work for political changes that would lead to legal protection of our human and civil rights. In the facts and circumstances stated above, you are requested in right earnest to ensure concrete and time-bound steps to enforce accessibility standards and guidelines with utmost strictness. Access audit for the said purpose should be carried out by both subject experts and experiential experts where latter means the persons with disabilities. All Government websites should be made accessible by complying with the latest web Content Accessibility Guidelines. All the States and UTs of India must have a progressive and forward looking policy on persons with disabilities which is compatible with the UNCRPD. It goes without saying that a person with disability has to incur additional expenditure due to, or arising out of his disability. They should be granted be granted exemption to the tune of 50% in the total annual income tax liability in place of existing benefit on taxable income as envisaged in Section 80(U) of the Income Tax Act. Disability studies should be made mandatory part of the curriculum and all higher institutions must have Enabling Units for students with disabilities. We also demand a separate department for disability issues with persons with disabilities being equal partners in all decisions. We, the citizens of India, earnestly request your expeditious action in respect of the matter, more particularly, in the face of the fact that the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 have been enforced for well over 16 years now. We look forward to your intervention this IDPwD.
Dr Satendra Singh, founder 'Infinite Ability' and Coordinator 'Enabling Unit' UCMS and GTB Hospital, Delhi