Disabilities Commissioner takes government authorities to task
Demands list of accessibility measures taken at offices by Feb end
Whether it is the Vidhana Soudha or the local gram panchayat office, the State disabilities commission has taken government authorities to task for failing to create a differently abled-friendly environment.
Having taken up a suo moto case in November-end, the State Disabilities Commissioner directed more than 200 government departments, city corporations, district commissioners, State-run universities, and heads of government corporations among others to furnish information on the steps taken to ensure their offices were “disabled-friendly”.
“This is the first time the department has asked for a comprehensive list of accessibility measures taken by government offices,” said Indresh R., undersecretary, the office of the State disabilities commission.
In a written interim order sent on December 31, the office of the State Disabilities Commissioner — which acts as a civil court in matters pertaining to the differently abled — has ordered government departments to consolidate information on accessibility measures taken under Section 44, 45, 46 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.
The information should be submitted to the Commissioner before February 28 when a hearing on the case is scheduled. “The order holds the Principal Secretaries responsible for the collection of the information. Action will be taken against officers who violate this order,” said Mr. Indresh.
He hoped that by March, a quantitative picture of accessibility to government buildings and public places would be available. “Based on the information, we can order them to ensure implementation of the Act within six months…even keeping in mind practical considerations of modifying government offices that work out of rented buildings, we hope that the implementation of the act will touch at least 70 percent,” said Mr. Indresh.
Welcomed by activists
The order has been welcomed by disability activists, who have said issuing notices to government offices can galvanize the bureaucracy into action. “There has been no will from government officials to ensure their buildings are disabled-friendly. The Act has not been taken seriously and if notices and threat of action are sent to the government offices, we can expect some change,” said Janardhana A.L., Programme Manager of the Association of People with Disability (APD).
However, unlike the disabilities commission, he “realistically” expects just 20 percent of government offices to follow the commission’s diktats.
Source: The Hindu