Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs (I/C), has stressed on the need for integrating divyang-friendly measures in various projects being implemented in the Smart Cities in India. This, he said, is required at the initial project planning stage to ensure that cities become divyang-friendly, accessible and inclusive. He was speaking at an interactive session on ôDivyang Friendly Measures and Policy Recommendations for Smart Cities in India here today. He said that in conjunction with the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), the Smart Cities Mission seeks to ensure that the most vulnerable sections of our society enjoy Ease of Living in Indian cities. The workshop, organised by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, had participation from divyang persons from different walks of life and eminent citizens and experts, including several international sports personalities.
Addressing the participants, Puri said that the feedback emanating from such stakeholder interaction will be sent to the CEOs and project managers of the Smart Cities to be incorporated in their plans. He said that these measures will improve the ease of living for those who lacked accessibility to all facilities. Lamenting that India particularly lacks data on disability, Hardeep Puri said that we will be looking at 25% of the population that will need universal accessibility in order to live independently and with dignity. He asserted that the Disability Act of 1995 also mandated accessibility for persons with disabilities. He pointed out that the Clause 40-48 of the VIIIth Chapter of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 also mandates making all buildings, services and products accessible giving definite timelines for implementation and retrofitting.
The Minister was categorical in saying that the standards exist, legislation is in place, thus we now have no reason to ignore this very urgent issue of accessibility any longer. He outlined that according to the United Nations, a mere 1% additional cost is incurred for incorporating universal design and accessibility in the design and planning stage itself. Stating that India is at an interesting cusp, Shri Puri said that we have the Accessible India Campaign, AMRUT, HRIDAY, Swachh Bharat, Digital India and the Smart Cities Mission û and accessibility cuts across them all.
Hardeep Puri also said that accessibility needs to be looked at beyond the built infrastructure alone. He said, with a growing digital interface, technology must be made accessible too municipal apps, bus shelters, kiosks, red light junctions, ATMs, all need to be made accessible for people with disabilities. Signage captioning is important for the deaf and hearing-impaired. Products that we use must be accessible- e.g. low floor buses, lifts and elevators that announce the floor reached for people with visual disabilities, etc.