Frankey Fernandes (NDTV); Panjim; June 9, 2006
The smallest state of India has taken a giant step towards equal rights for persons with disability. Goa will now ensure that they have equal and easy access to not just all buildings but also to transport facilities.
A new policy by the Goa Cabinet -- the first in the country -- makes it mandatory for all public buildings, transport systems, hospitals and tourist areas to have facilities that provide easy access to disabled persons. The government says facilities like ramps, special seating in buses and toilets will be set up by 2008.
"The state government decided to formulate a policy which is more concrete and more generous. Goa is the first state to have its own policy whether it is early detection, employment education or excess public buildings," said Santosh Desai, Secretary, Social Welfare, Goa. "Hospitals, educational institutions, university, tourism areas will be made easy access areas."
The policy comes after a legal battle by a group of law students who decided to file a PIL to highlight the government's failure to implement provisions of the Disability Act.
"We conducted a survey of all the public places and buildings where disabled persons need to get into. and we realized that the act was not implemented," said Charmaine Abreu Lobo, petitioner.
The government says it has already begun work to ensure the policy translates into action within the 2008 deadline.