Changemaker Series is our blog series which will capture stories in the format of Q&A to introduce our thought leaders and changemakers to a wider society. These stories capture essence of inclusivity, accessibility & change especially focusing on persons with disability.
We got talking with Sminu Jindal, Founder & Chairperson at SVAYAM & Managing Director at JINDAL SAW Ltd and this is what she had to say about Accessible India Campaign.
What is accessibility to you?
Accessibility is all about freedom of choice and we all know that it is everyone’s birth right. Everyone deserves to get out of their homes for entertainment or to make a living for themselves in an enabling atmosphere, adding to the nations GDP.
Of course, I am talking about accessibility right up to the villages as I believe if one is not in touch with their roots there is no way an economy will grow.
Tell us more about Svayam
‘Svayam’ literally means “Self” or “Be on your own”. We work to promote this into self-dependence, self-reliance & self respect among persons with reduced mobility so that they lead a dignified life.
The effort at ‘Svayam’ is to nurture a complete inclusive ecosystem which understands, develops and maintains accessible built environment for all sections of the society. It aims to bring a meaningful change in the lives of thousands who face social as well as economic isolation due to disabling infrastructure.
According to you, in what ways can local communities and people contribute to Accessible India Campaign?
It is important for the local communities to verbalize the need of having accessible public infrastructure and services in broader confines. It would not only empower but encourage the stakeholders to question the infrastructural barriers prevalent in the community.
Constant dialogue with concerned stakeholders helps them understand the benefits of accessible infrastructure when used with responsibility.
What expectations do you have from accessible India mobile app and portal?
This is the age of internet.
I feel Accessible India mobile app and web portal will act as a public watchdog to flag the instances of inaccessibility with active involvement of stakeholders.
However, the entire process of follow up by nodal officers and the concerned municipality/department would need to be time bound. Crowd sourcing will be successful and keep people highly motivated if people are kept updated on each development through the app.
How can corporate India Inc help make public locations user friendly?
The Corporate India can be a partner in this campaign by being open to having diversity among their workforce; making their work premises accessible and also looking at sponsoring accessibility initiatives in tourism products & city infrastructure. Addition of Accessibility initiatives under the permissible activities to be taken up under the CSR spending under revised Companies Act would be a shot in the arm for the campaign.
Lastly, your top three recommendations for Accessible India campaign?
- Raising awareness in the larger community that accessibility just doesn’t enable elderly or persons with reduced mobility but raises quality of life for everyone. The training and sensitization must reach all stakeholders, particularly the last rung – the mason, the operator, the service staff!
- Responsible Use – Campaigns should go beyond introducing accessibility in infrastructure to creating mechanisms for regular maintenance, promoting responsible use of such facilities by all stakeholders and reporting the broken or non-working facility to the concerned authority as a responsible citizen – for rights come with duties!
- Enforcement – The accessibility features are often misused and vandalized due to lack of enforcement (viz. cars parked on designated accessible parking areas or in front of ramps and kerbs; bikes misusing kerbs and driving on sidewalks). Campaign must look at creating mechanisms for strict enforcement with introduction of penalties in cases of misuse through convergence among different & often multiple agencies.
About Accessible India Campaign:
Accessible India Campaign is a nation-wide flagship campaign for achieving universal accessibility for people with disabilities by Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities)