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Office-hour hardship for disabled

- Government institutions flout 1995 act that orders for making barrier-free structures

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 19: The development authority here has failed to walk the talk.

The development authority, which approves building plans and makes it mandatory to have elevators and ramps at skyscrapers, is yet to have such structures in its own building. Such negligence clearly flouts the Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act, 1995, that orders making construction of ramps and barrier-free structures for the disabled on the office premises compulsory.

One has to step on around six staircases to reach the office, which becomes an uphill task for the disabled and elderly people.

Similarly, offices of the Bhubaneswar Municipality Corporation, city railway station and the regional transport are yet to implement the norms for easy access for the disabled.

In the corporation office, the physically challenged visitors, who come here for marriage certificates, trade or commercial licences, booking of kalyan mandaps, have to face difficulties. Moreover, the disabled visiting the corporation’s tax building have to face similar hardship, as it, too, lacks the facility of an elevator.

Sources in the civic body said that though the corporation had planned to construct the ramps two years ago, the move was yet to be materialised.

Chairperson of the state disability commission Kasturi Mohapatra expressed concern over the lack of implementation of the norms. “The government offices must have barrier-free structure, but it is a matter of concern that these offices are ignoring the norms though we have been writing frequent letters to them. We are conducting regular workshops with participation of engineers. But, the norms are yet to be fully implemented,” said Mohapatra.

Sannyash Behera, co-ordinator of the Odisha Disabled People’s Network, who is also visually challenged, said the state government had not been able to create barrier-free structure for the physically challenged people.

“Even the state secretariat building is not properly designed for accessibility as cow catchers (iron structures to prohibit the entry of animals) have been installed at the entrance and exit points. The government must ensure easy accessibility for the physically disabled,” said Behera.

However, experts feel that not only government buildings, but also structures such as footpaths, bus stops, tourism sites and other vital destinations need to have structural changes for accessibility as they also include safety issues.

Similarly, they suggested introducing signboards in sign language and Braille, facilities of wheelchairs to bring in some real changes.