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Times of India
08 April 2010
By Shailvee Sharda
Lucknow, India

Disabled to Have Easy Access to Information
Now gathering information will not be a tedious task for persons with disabilities (PWD). The state government has decided to revamp government websites so that PWD are saved from depending on others for obtaining information. As a part of this, the drill of navigating any government website is expected to undergo a change to have facilities for persons with visual disability.

Such persons may also hope to venture out fearlessly in the days to come. Principal secretary, UP government, RP Singh has written to heads of all departments and bodies, divisional commissioners and district magistrates to ensure that appropriate measures be taken to enable PWD live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life.

The letter takes the reference of a document issued during the United Nation convention on the rights of persons with disabilities to which India is a signatory.

Article nine of the document titled “accessibility” underlines that states must initiate measures that involve identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to ensure accessibility to PWD.

“The measures shall apply to, inter alia: buildings, roads, transportation and other indoor and outdoor facilities including schools, housing, medical facilities and work places. It shall also relate to information, communications and other services, including electronic services and emergency services,” says the government order, citing the UN document.

The letter states that, in pursuance of the said document, departments must be made accessible to PWD and construction of hasslefree websites is to be taken in the 2010–11 fiscal. Interesting to note that the department for welfare of PWD is located at eighth floor of a government building. Though ramps are constructed to facilitate PWD but there has been a long pending demand to relocate the department at the ground floor.

With reference to the electronic communication, the UN document reads: “the states should work to promote access for PWD to new information and communication technologies and systems including the internet, promote design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communication technologies and systems at an early state so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.”

The UN document adds that state parties shall also take appropriate measures to develop promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public. It would be expected to ensure that the private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities.

Also, the states would be expected to provide: training for stake holders on accessibility issues being faced by PWD, public signages in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms in buildings and other facilities, forms of live assistance and intermediaries including guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to public and promote other appropriate forms of assistance and support to PWD to ensure their access to information.

Section 46 of the persons with disabilities Act also talks about non–discrimination in the built environment. As per this, the appropriate governments and the local authorities shall, within the limits of their economic capacities and development provide for ramps in public buildings, adaptation of toilets for wheel chair users, Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators or lifts, ramps in hospitals, primary health centres and other medical care and rehabilitation institutions.

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