Correspondent : Lisa Ann Monteiro

Panaji: Panaji bus stand, Panaji post office, Shram Shakti Bhavan and Panaji police station were among those at the bottom of the list, in a recently concluded survey conducted to gauge the ease movement persons with disabilities enjoy in public spaces and locations. Offices of the state tourism department, Goa tourism development corporation, department of art and culture, and the central library fared well.

Of the popular beaches, Miramar, Baga and Candolim were found to be highly inaccessible, while Calangute was adjudged more disabled-friendly. Goa University and Goa Medical College and Hospital were also among the locations surveyed.

A team of experts comprising trained access auditors, architects and visually impaired volunteers completed an inspection of 31 public buildings, gardens and beaches on June 1. The endeavour was undertaken as part of the nationwide accessible India campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) aimed at achieving universal accessibility for persons with disabilities.

The team from Universal Design Centre, a part of Dr Bhanuben Nanavati College of Architecture in Pune, spent a day, sometimes two, studying each building and location thoroughly. They evaluated each site on parameters like access routes and entrance to the premises; external pathways; vehicle parking spaces; staircases, receptions and lobbies; presence of ramps, handrails and elevator; corridors; lavatories; doors and doorways; and drinking water facilities.

Reports running into nearly 100 pages were compiled on each place, and included detailed observations and recommendations listed on the basis of priority. Fifteen of these were submitted to the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment in May. The rest will be sent for approval by June 27. After review, the reports will be sent back to the state social welfare department to be implemented.

Abhijit Murugkar, project head, accessible India campaign told TOI that ramps in certain buildings were mere structures and didn’t ensure accessibility for all. “Moreover, although there were washrooms for the disabled in some buildings, they were often locked or used as storerooms,” he added.

“Abled bodied people don’t realize that all it takes is an accident to disable a person and you need your workspace to adapt to you,” Murugkar said. “Crores are spent renovating buildings but the challenges faced by senior citizens, pregnant women, wheelchair users, those with visual and speech impediments, are never taken into consideration. It’s clearly a case of misplaced priorities and people’s mindsets need to undergo a sea change.”

Murugkar is of the opinion that there is a need to appoint disability focal persons who will look into the maintenance of accessibility infrastructure once it is built and also deal with any related issues.

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