A four-day national symposium on “Designing Roads for Disabled Pedestrians in India” concluded here on Sunday, with the participants unanimously adopting a ten-point charter of demands on road designing for disabled pedestrians.
Organised jointly under the Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (SDRS) and Social Action and Research Foundation (SARF) at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC), the symposium saw participants speak about the progress made by India in exploring possibilities for providing a barrier-free environment to the differently-abled.
The major issues taken up in the ten-point charter include: mandatory compliance of the principle of “universal designing” and “accessibility”, involvement of disabled stakeholders in road designing; promotion of use and application of ICT [information and communications technology] related innovative assistive devices; putting up pedestrian controlled crossings, signage and tactile cones near or under the control button; instituting special refresher and orientation courses to architecture and civil engineers as well as transport and police officials in order to sensitise them towards the needs of inclusive designing and construction of pavements, side walks, zebra and kerb cuts for disabled commuters.
The charter broadly asked for development of a balanced and all-inclusive national road development policy and replication of the policy for all modes of public and private transport for persons with disabilities.
Delivering the valedictory address, the chief commissioner of persons with disability, Prasanna Kumar Pincha said: “The goal of empowering persons with disabilities cannot be achieved unless accessibility is provided to them at all stages, especially in terms of availing the benefits of governmental schemes and programmes,” he said.
SDRS honorary president and Jawaharlal Nehru University expert on Disability Studies Dr. G. N. Karna strongly advocated the setting up of centres, departments or divisions for disseminating information about disability studies as an effective instrument of change in the process of empowering persons with disabilities. He also said issues related to road designing should be incorporated in the curricula across different disciplines.
The ISIC chairman Major H. P. S. Ahluwalia advocated the creation of a Department of Disability Affairs. Former IGNOU pro Vice-Chancellor Prof. P. R. Ramanujam also pointed out the gap between rhetoric and reality with regard to facilitating accessibility of disadvantaged sections including wheelchair users, visual and hearing impaired individuals.
Experts from premier institutions like the Indian Institutes of Technology, ISIC, NIMHANS (Bangalore), Central Road Research Institute, Delhi University and JNU also spoke and presented papers about road and pavement design.