Under any Circumstances, Do Not Design Inaccessible Buildings

We humans are often touted for our selected empathy, what doesn’t affect us personally, doesn’t move us.

The last month of every year celebrates International Day of People with Disabilities (December 3), so I thought of writing on accessibility issues. Around mid-December, a social media post caught my attention, wherein an architect friend raised questions about accessibility provisions in a health care facility. In the same month, we saw the release of a movie called ‘Zero’ wherein one of the leading characters was specially-abled. For a change from standard Bollywood movies, this one portrayed the role as an independent & confident person, not a victim. While a lot of things are happening around the subject, it seems, real on-ground work is yet to happen.

We humans are often touted for our selected empathy, what doesn’t affect us personally, doesn’t move us. Recently, one of my relatives had been bedridden, and we were looking for a place to keep him close to the hospital. Never would I have realised how much of a difference 2 steps leading to the front door could make, unless I was one among the 3 persons carrying a 20 kg wheelchair with a 55-60 kg person sitting on it every time he needs to go to the hospital. A ramp could have made things so much easier!

Another dear friend recently revealed her ordeal in a city hospital where she went for minor surgery. The ground floor did not have a washroom, so patients needed to climb up a full flight of stairs to access the toilet. There is no lift either which is shocking for a health care. She reminisces how scary it was even in a semi-conscious state to be lifted by six staff members on a stretcher from the operations theatre and being brought down to her room through the narrow staircase.

As an architect working in the area of accessibility, she questions, how can a 20-bedded hospital be sanctioned without provision of a lift? Who approves such inaccessible healthcare facilities? Having faced all these difficulties, she wonders about the fate of old, weak, and the wheelchair-bound. I have further questions: what are the provisions for auditing private buildings for accessibility issues, how often, and who ensure that the norms are followed?

Most sincerely I join her to request the fraternity not to design healthcare, educational or any building with public facility without the accessibility needs & guidelines incorporated, even under pressure from clients.

The Right to Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 talks about barrier-free access, violation of which is punishable. Apart from auditing Government Buildings and some initiatives by Accessible India, how many private buildings have been audited so far?

I stress it is crucial to spot inaccessible buildings serving special needs and making sure they comply and provide easy access, or mark them for necessary amendments. The buildings violating the norms must be brought openly to public notice and given stipulated time for modifications.

It is the time that the sanctioning authorities awake to become more sensitive to the needs & challenges. When ordinary people like you and me are going through such painful ordeals, can we even imagine the fate of the specially-abled?

Let this New Year be about Dignity & Respect for all, Inclusiveness and true Belongingness. Happy New Year 2019 to all! Keep reading Surfaces Reporter magazine!

This is an editorial note from Vertica Dvivedi, Editor-in-Chief, Surfaces Reporter Magazine and the founder of WADe Asia. To know more about her, please visit vertica.in. You can also mail her at vertica@surfaces.in.

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