After launching the Ease of Living Index and the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry plans to rank the 100 smart cities on their accessibility quotient for the differently-abled people or ‘divyang.’
“We need to do some sort of a survekshan – swachh survekshan, ease of living index, a garbage-free index and now an accessibility index across the 100 smart cities,” Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said after the interactive session on Divyang Friendly Measures and Policy Recommendations for Smart Cities in India held in the Capital on Tuesday.
The workshop, organised by the National Institute of Urban Affairs, saw participation from divyang persons from different walks of life and eminent citizens and experts, including several international sports personalities.
“After we are ready with the list of recommendations in the next few days, we will circulate them among all the participants and then go with them to all the 100 smart cities… This is not a one-time thing, we want to consult stakeholders, those intimately affected and to see how we can improve the ease of living for them. Most smart cities may already have incorporated infrastructure for the differently-abled people but an accessibility survekshan will indicate if anything has been left out or not,” he said.
Puri said, “the standards exist, legislation is in place, thus we now have no reason to ignore this very urgent issue of accessibility any longer.”
As per the United Nations, a mere 1 percent additional cost is incurred for incorporating universal design and accessibility in the design and planning stage itself. In India “we have the Accessible India Campaign, AMRUT, HRIDAY, Swachh Bharat, Digital India and the Smart Cities Mission – and accessibility cuts across them all.”
Accessibility needs to be looked at beyond the built infrastructure alone. “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,” he told reporters.
“These are small fixes that can be done through technology. Once the list of recommendations are ready these would be finalised in consultations, we send them from the ministry of housing and urban affairs through the project directors for the smart cities to the 100 project managers, the SPVs that have been set up and then have the next meeting or the smart cities conclave we will look at this (accessibility index),” he said.
He also referred to the Article 36 of the New Urban Agenda that state that “We commit ourselves to promoting appropriate measures in cities and human settlements that facilitate access for persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment of cities, in particular to public spaces, public transport, housing, education and health facilities, public information and communication (including information and communications technologies and systems) and other facilities and services open or provided to the public, in both urban and rural areas.”