Keen that public places are made more accessible to the specially enabled, the Centre has in a belated but welcome move decided to take up an access audit of government and public buildings in the Capital with the aim of promoting a barrier-free environment.
India has lagged behind the developed world in creating barrier-free buildings and public places, showing the callousness and utter disregard for the specially enabled on the part of civic authorities. The urban development ministry, which has engaged an independent agency to carry out the audit, wants to later undertake the exercise in all public buildings and urban spaces frequently visited by people.
Initially, 50 buildings in the Capital will be taken up. More buildings will be covered later, a UD ministry official said. The audit will include identifying barriers in terms of external and internal built environment of the building such as approach, main gates, parking, building entrance, public dealing area, corridors and general circulation areas, signages, lifts, staircase, ramp, toilets, drinking water facilities, canteens, conference and meeting rooms, exit and emergency evacuation facility, lighting, warning system and safe refuge on ground floor as well as on upper floors.
The ministry, which is the nodal agency for implementation of a barrier free environment under the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Right and Full Participation) Act 1995, has also directed all states to designate an official in all districts to bring cases of non-compliance to the notice of civic agencies for appropriate action.
Creating a barrier-free built-environment for differently-abled people is the focus area of the audit. Once the buildings are audited, the report will be taken up by the ministry and implementation will start through CPWD and other civic authorities, said an official.
Though the ministry had formulated Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Environment for Disabled and Elderly Persons in 1998 and circulated it to state governments and other agencies, there was no audit and course correction.
In the developed world, building plans need to follow disabled friendly bylaws before they are approved and to ensure compliance, access audit is done at regular intervals.