Accessibility Equals Inclusivity for Persons with 


Disabilities


Iris C F Gomes

The lack of accessibility available to people with disabilities in public places in Goa is shocking. Laws have been passed to mandate that arrangements be made to make life easier for differently-abled persons. This, however, has had little effect in terms of bringing about a change. Neither the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 nor the law that replaced it, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which was ratified in 2017, have been heeded. Even if ramps are built, they are not up to the right specifications and are, therefore, unusable.


This problem of accessibility is hugely detrimental to differently-abled persons seeking to further their education, looking to hold jobs and partaking in entertainment activities just as anybody else would. These are important facets of everyday life and accessible infrastructure is one way of promoting an inclusive environment where people with disabilities will have equal opportunities to participate in education, employment and enjoyment.


Accessibility will also facilitate the movement of elderly individuals and pregnant women. They comprise of about 12% of the population. In all, accessibility in public areas will benefit 14% of the total population. 


An essential component of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 is that all public locations, including those owned by the public sector, must be made accessible within a period of 5 years of the Act being notified. Also, a no occupancy certificate will be issued to new buildings that are not accessible to persons with disabilities in keeping with the laid down standards.

It is this lack of accessibility that has motivated DRAG (Disability Rights Association of Goa) to spearhead a campaign that has set a competition between panchayats and municipalities to create accessible spaces. Prizes will be awarded to three panchayats and one municipality that achieve success in this area. This campaign was launched at the hands of Fr Maverick Fernandes, Director of Caritas Goa, on the 25th of January 2020. In order to apply for the awards, these governmental bodies will have to ensure that educational institutions, markets, bus stands, post offices, banks and religious buildings within their governance will become accessible in accordance with the harmonised guidelines of the Act of 2016, before 31st October 2020. The last date to apply is also 31st October 2020.


Mr Avelino de Sa, President of DRAG, said, ‘We are hoping that society will play a part in making places accessible in whatever way possible. Shops can be made accessible by putting a ramp or hand rail in front of them. Hotels can also do the same. Aside from the panchayats and municipalities, we are hoping that private citizens in their own small way will do things to make areas accessible to persons with disabilities.’

Please spread the word around to encourage inclusivity.