mid-day editorial: Building an open society, one day at a time

Tomorrow is International Disability Day. There are several events being held across the city to create awareness about the disabled and, most of all, to emphasise on the need for a more inclusive society. One event in particular, a week-long initiative, marries two objectives — women’s safety and disability — by focusing on how safe public spaces are for disabled women.

This is one week when the spotlight will be on the disabled, but we cannot stop there. The focus this year is on inclusion, and we must put in consistent effort to ensure that our public spaces and facilities factor in the needs of the differently abled.

So many contemporary buildings in the city have little to no amenities for the disabled. There are no ramps, passages are narrow, no markings for the blind: simple things like this make so many public spaces inaccessible for the disabled.

It will be harder to change existing facilities, but newer buildings at least, especially public ones, like shopping malls and recreational facilities and residential buildings must be planned with better accessibility. The government must consider including a compulsory ‘disabled friendly’ clause for building licences and sanctions, so that builders are compelled to make arrangements in the conception stage itself.

Public transport is another huge challenge. Compartments for the handicapped in local trains are often taken over by others who are not supposed to travel in it. Even the most basic right of voting becomes a massive challenge when polling venues are inaccessible.

While it is imperative that we make these tangible improvements, the most important bit is to ensure that the disabled feel they have an equal stake in society. That they do not feel forgotten, kept in the fringes only to be remembered on certain occasions. It is up to us to make the world a more open and accepting place for everyone.

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