By: Amit Singh Kushwaha
In a significant move towards inclusivity, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) in India has mandated that all government offices nationwide, lacking disabled-friendly infrastructure, must depute staff on the ground floor to provide services to individuals with disabilities.
This directive extends not only to government offices but also encompasses public services outsourced by the government, including passport and visa services, Jan Suvidha Kendras, and customer service centers.
The CCPD’s decision follows a distressing incident involving disability rights activist Virali Modi, who, despite a prior appointment, faced considerable challenges during the registration of her marriage.
The Mumbai marriage registrar’s office, situated on the second floor without ramps or lifts, compelled Modi to be carried upstairs, prompting outrage over the insensitivity displayed by the officials and the system’s overall apathy towards creating a barrier-free and accessible public environment.
Expressing concern over Virali Modi’s experience, the CCPD underscored the urgent need for compliance with accessibility standards. The court has forwarded its recommendations to various ministries and state governments, urging them to ensure adherence to the directive.
Chief Commissioner Rajesh Aggarwal emphasized that the time limit for making old public buildings accessible, as mandated by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, has already expired.
Noting that public services provided by the government are often monopolistic, leaving citizens with limited alternatives, Aggarwal asserted that officers in inaccessible buildings must relocate their services to accessible areas, ensuring that persons with disabilities can avail themselves of services without hindrance.
The move is not merely symbolic; it represents a commitment to transforming public spaces into environments that accommodate the needs of all citizens, irrespective of physical abilities.
The CCPD’s proactive stance sends a strong message about the importance of inclusivity in governance and public services, urging authorities to prioritize the creation of accessible infrastructure.
In response to the incident involving Virali Modi, the state government took swift action, suspending and transferring the responsible officer for dereliction of duty. This underscores the significance of accountability in ensuring the effective implementation of accessibility measures.
As India takes strides towards becoming a more inclusive society, this directive stands as a crucial step in acknowledging and addressing the challenges faced by persons with disabilities. By making public spaces and services accessible to all, the government aims to foster a more equitable and compassionate society, setting a precedent for other nations to follow in the pursuit of universal accessibility and inclusivity.