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Reforming Indian Railway Infrastructure To Disabled Friendly:

Inadequate the infrastructure of Indian Railways is to cater to the needs of physically challenged people. The inadequacies and entrenched insensitivity towards physically handicapped (PH) passengers become particularly stark when one looks at international benchmarks and standard best practices. In many other parts of the world, train travel is a lot more comfortable for passengers with special needs, with such service being a courtesy extended by the railway authorities.

For example: Stations in Europe and North America have automated doorways with scanners that facilitate easy transit for wheelchair bound passengers. Ramps, escalators, elevators, luggage escalators are all easy to use and widely distributed/accessible across stations. In addition, many other facilities used in stations. from ATM machines, ticket vending machines, toilets to restaurants, book stalls, souvenir shops and consumer durable shops - are all designed to cater to the needs of physically challenged passengers.

Clearly, Indian Railways has miles to go to catch up, whether in terms of facilities mandatorily required for physically challenged persons or the infrastructure needed to facilitate ease of access and use. A review of the many things that are done for passengers with disabilities in other countries can provide a starting list of things Indian Railways needs to do too.

  • Coaches designed with the needs of physically challenged persons in mind, with requisite facilities on each train.
  • Handicapped-friendly toilets with room for wheelchairs, mirrors, shelves, sinks, taps, faucets, flush handles, latches, all accessible and usable by a person seated on a wheelchair.
  • WCs or western commodes with disposable sanitized paper rims.
  • Flexible stairs that can extend to become a ramp for boarding and alighting wheelchair passengers.
  • Ramps, ambu-lifts, room for stretchers and fully equipped first aid/emergency medical staff on call in such cars.
  • Telephone connections in such cars, meant strictly for the use of authorized personnel and bona fide physically challenged passengers only.
  • Escalators (horizontal and climbing travellators, or moving walkways, wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs).
  • Luggage escalators / conveyor belts installed beside every stairway in the railway stations.
  • Separate lines for physically/mentally handicapped persons at railway counters
  • Uniform height of all platforms in all railways stations in India.
  • Catering and other on-board crew who are trained for lip reading and sign language, for the aid of hearing and speech impaired passengers.

Employment Training

India will train four million people with disability for employment in sectors, including beauty and wellness, IT and tourism, in the next seven years, said chairman of a society which helps in training physically challenged people. "We have a target to skill close to four million people with disability by 2022, and we are hopeful we will be able to achieve that," said Patu Keswani, chairman of Skill Council of People with Disability.

Keswani, who was appointed chairman of the Skill Council of People With Disability about two months ago, said 12 sectors have been identified for people with 19 disabilities as per a bill tabled in parliament.

  • The SCPWD's skilling programme will also cover disabled youths from rural and slums of India, for employment.
  • The SCPWD will also use technology in training programmes for reaching out the people across the country.
  • Corporations in India have responded well to the Skill India initiative as well as the SCPWD, said Keswani.
  • SCPWD is a society promoted by Confederation of Indian Industry and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Disabled Friendly Employment Policies for Indian Inc.

India Inc will soon have an incentive to design disabled-friendly buildings and human resource policies. A new index, likely to be unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 3 as part of 'Accessible India' campaign, will rate companies across public and private sectors for disabled -friendly initiatives.

December 3 is celebrated as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Government will kick off the exercise with a rating of 10 private companies. Government proposed index will give credits to companies for disabled-friendly office buildings, the number of disabled persons on their rolls, investment in training and career development. Index will also assess companies on sensitization of peers towards persons with disabilities, providing products such as computers and mouse for use, provision of facilities like toilets and percentage distribution in employment of physically and mentally challenged persons.

"There will be extra credits for employment given to persons with extreme disability. There will be a differentiation not just to see the total percentage of persons with disability employed but also the type of disability people suffer from," said a senior official. Ethical Push

Indian government is hoping to give the corporate sector an ethical push with this index "If you score high you can be seen as a socially responsible player in the corporate world. This could work as an incentive for the private sector to invest in the Accessible India campaign and help the government," said the official.

Government is hoping to rope in the private sector to adopt and retrofit buildings to make them accessible to disabled persons. The department of disability affairs is proposing tax incentives for private companies if they invest in the campaign. Though the proposal is at a nascent stage, the department is working towards finalizing it before the launch of the index, an official said.

Empathy View: Enact law on rights for differently abled

The differently abled must not be discriminated against. Rating PSUs on the accessibility index is a good idea. However, the government must also swiftly enact the law which guarantees the rights and entitlements of persons with disabilities, given that India ratified a UN convention in 2007. The proposed law entitles persons with at least 40 per cent disability to benefits such as reservations in education, employment and preference in government schemes. As government services have been outsourced to private agencies, these must be also being covered under the law. Guaranteed rights will only strengthen the government's campaign.

  • Coaches designed with the needs of physically challenged persons in mind, with requisite facilities on each train.
  • Handicapped-friendly toilets with room for wheelchairs, mirrors, shelves, sinks, taps, faucets, flush handles, latches, all accessible and usable by a person seated on a wheelchair.
  • WCs or western commodes with disposable sanitized paper rims.
  • Flexible stairs that can extend to become a ramp for boarding and alighting wheelchair passengers.
  • Ramps, ambu-lifts, room for stretchers and fully equipped first aid/emergency medical staff on call in such cars.
  • Telephone connections in such cars, meant strictly for the use of authorized personnel and bona fide physically challenged passengers only.
  • Escalators (horizontal and climbing travellators, or moving walkways, wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs).
  • Luggage escalators / conveyor belts installed beside every stairway in the railway stations.
  • Separate lines for physically/mentally handicapped persons at railway counters
  • Uniform height of all platforms in all railways stations in India.
  • Catering and other on-board crew who are trained for lip reading and sign language, for the aid of hearing and speech impaired passengers.

10 Years Age Relaxation in Central Government Jobs for Disabled People

In a big relief to people with physical disabilities, the central government has announced to allow a relaxation of 10 years in age for the visually-challenged, hearing-impaired and persons suffering from locomotor disability or cerebral palsy in case of direct recruitment to all central government posts but not in the civil services.

The new rules by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) further say that people with disabilities belonging to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories will get 15 more years and those from Other Backward Class (OBC) will be entitled for 13 years relaxation. The relaxation is applicable with the condition that maximum age of the applicant shall not exceed 56 years.

"Age relaxation of 10 years (15 years for SC/ST and 13 years for OBC candidates) in upper age limit shall be allowed to persons suffering from (a) blindness or low vision, (b) hearing impairment and (c) locomotor disability or cerebral palsy in case of direct recruitment to all civil posts or services under the Central government identified suitable to be held by persons with such disabilities," the DoPT said.

The age concession to the persons with disabilities shall be admissible irrespective of the fact whether the post is reserved for person with disabilities or not, provided the post is identified suitable for the relevant category of disability.

"This provision will not apply to the civil services examination, in respect of which the list of services identified suitable for physically disabled category along with the physical requirements and functional classifications is notified separately," the DoPT said.

Earlier, there was a provision of five years of concession in upper age limit (10 years for SC/ST, eight years for OBC) for recruitment to Group 'A' and 'B' posts, otherwise than through open competitive examination. There was a provision of ten years of concession in upper age limit for Group 'C' and 'D' posts filled through employment exchanges.