Former disability commissioner Satish Chandra (second from right), NBJK executive director Girija Satish (extreme right) and others in Ranchi on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
A toilet at a school may encourage a girl student to continue study but a disabled child may still face the same problem if that toilet does not have proper access.
Similarly, a drinking water tap at school may be too high for a student on wheelchair.
These and many more such questions were raised during a day-long state-level consultation on WASH — water, sanitation and hygiene — rights of people with disabilities (PwD) held at a Ranchi hotel on Wednesday.
Over 100 people took part in the discussions organised by Nava Bharat Jagriti Kendra (NBJK), an NGO active in Bihar and Jharkhand for nearly four decades, and supported by Water Aid India.
“It’s a huge challenge for those with disabilities for accessing WASH facilities in both rural and urban areas”said Girija Satish, executive director of Jagriti Kendra while explaining the rationale behind the meet.
“WASH is just not about toilets alone. It covers water, sanitation and hygiene,” explained Anjlee Agarwal, wheelchair-borne executive director and access consultant of Samarthyam, a Delhi-based organisation.
Thirteen per cent urban and 67 per cent of the rural population were without access to toilets, she said. Even where there was a toilet, disabled people faced great difficulty as those weren’t equipped with water and ramp facilities.
“And in places where these are available, they are not user-friendly so far as persons with disabilities are concerned,” she said, adding that in many schools water taps were placed beyond the reach of disabled children.
Agarwal called for a thorough review of policies and asked that government standards (for these) be amended and updated.
Satish Chandra, former disability commissioner of the state, pointed out that although it was accepted in principle that 3 per cent of budget allocations would be spent for the benefit of the disabled, it was yet to be implemented.
But the experience of Deepak Baran Ghosh, who is visually impaired, was indicative of the all-round apathy that existed on understanding the problems of the disabled.
The vice-president of Jharkhand Bikalang Manch had to board a bus from Jamtara to attend Tuesday’s conference. “We have heard of reserved seats in public transport. But, when I boarded a bus with a disabled friend at Jamtara the other day, we found no such seat in that bus.”