PUNE: DesignBridge Foundation, with support of eminent disability rights activists and persons with disabilities and an eminent academic institution in Pune , is spearheading the “Barrierfree Maharashtra” movement as a citizens pressure group. This state wide initiative aims to promote awareness about the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act of 2016 (RPWD Act 2016) amongst the common public and influential decision makers in the public as well as private sector. The “Barrierfree Maharashtra” citizens pressure group has been officially launched on 2nd Dec 2019, informed Abhijit Murugkar, founder of DesignBridge Foundation at a press meet organized at Patrakar Sangh  on the occasion of the eve of the World Disability Day on 3 Dec.

Shri. Abhijit Murugkar, founder of DesignBridge Foundation, Dr. Anurag Kashyap- Principal of BNCA, Dr. Sanjay Jain- Disability rights activist and Professor at ILS Law College, Ujwala Bairagi- financial consultant and disability rights activist, Dhananjay Bhole- Web technologies and information communication accessibility expert, Prof. Kavita Murugkar, Nationally recognized Universal Accesibility specialist and Architects Radhika Dhekne and Sayali Andhare  are the core members of this initiative.

Murugkar also added that ‘In spite of the RPWD Act 2016 passed by the Parliament of India, the general awareness amongst the public and influential decision makers in public and private establishments is very low and dismal, to say the least. Schools, colleges, universities, offices, banks, post offices, hospitals, gardens, roads, footpaths, malls, cinema theatres, hotels, restaurants, places of worship, museums, bus stops, transportation hubs, vehicles, public transport continue to be inaccessible to persons with disabilities, Lack of awareness, insensitive approach, barriers of mindset and technical difficulties in implementation of compliance to norms are 4 major factors that continue to create barriers and inequality in the society, where persons with disabilities are denied their right of equal opportunity to function and live in the society with dignity.

This dream of an ‘equitable society’ where every individual gets an equal opportunity to study, work, travel, enjoy recreational activities, use transportation means, use apps and information communications technology freely without any barriers is possible to achieve. Countries like Japan have showed us the way, that it is possible to bring out this change in the society where every child, pregnant women, senior citizens, persons with disabilities and people with diverse abilities are considered as “users” while designing and implementing policies, schemes and projects for public welfare and use. With over 40 crore of India’s population slated to reach an age of 60 by 2050, it is very critical to ensure that we take concrete action on ground to stop creation of inaccessible environments, products and services, so that this aging population can benefit.”   

He also said that “If developed cities like Mumbai and Pune have such low level of awareness about this important issue, one can only imagine the situation in tier 2 cities like Nashik, Aurangabad, Solapur, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and many others in Maharashtra state. For this purpose, Barrierfree Maharashtra movement aims to connect with committed individuals and organizations in all cities and towns of Maharashtra, to share details of issues related to implementation of RPWD Act, so that the same can be highlighted and brought to the notice of the concerned officials and decision makers, and followed up by all means available, including legal resource.”

“Barrierfree Maharashtra” will extensively use social media platform such as facebook, twitter, instagram and whastapp group and shall highlight relevant issues related to implementation of RPWD Act and non compliance or violation of the same in Public and Private establishments. The Social Media team of Barrierfree Maharashtra shall compile all such data contributed by citizen volunteers across the state, and publish it on social media and for forwarding to and following up with concerned decision makers for further action on ground.

Many disability rights activists across the country expressed the need for such a citizens pressure group and have supported this initiative wholeheartedly.

DesignBridge Foundation is a Pune based voluntary organization founded by Shri Abhijit Murugkar, committed to promotion and creation of built environment accessibility for persons with disabilities. It has been instrumental in hand holding government departments across the country including many cities of Maharashtra namely, Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Solapur for making existing buildings barrier free. The foundation has successfully contributed in making more than 200 government buildings in the state accessible for people with all types of disabilities in the last 2 years.