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Barrier-free attitude sets an example for accessibility

DNIS News Network - The RCI shows how easy it is to be accessible, with the inauguration of its disabled-friendly building as well as website.

The Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) has inaugurated its new barrier free building. This has set a much-needed example for planners, policy makers and other stakeholders working towards promoting the rights of people with disabilities. Built on the principle of universal design, the building is fully accessible to all disabled people including the visually impaired and hearing impaired people.

The building design incorporates ramps, handrails, elevators with auditory and Braille signals, barrier-free toilets, spacious corridors and lobbies to allow free movement of wheel chairs and appropriate signage at right places. The barrier free features will also be convenient for some of the 24 council members who are themselves disabled.

Inaugurating the RCI building, the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ms Meira Kumar said that government is committed to the welfare of disabled people across country. “It is our responsibility to ensure that any new building which comes up incorporates barrier free features as provided in the Person with Disabilities Act and model building by-laws prepared for this purpose,” she added.

“This is probably the first such government office in the country with fully accessible features,” said RCI Chairman, Major H P S Ahluwalia. “There is everything for everybody here in India, except for those with disabilities and it's almost nine years since the Disabiltites Act was signed into law. India has only just begun to shift from a charity to a rights based mode, with regard to disabled people.”

“Many public buildings in the city, including Nirman Bhawan, have been retrofitted with ramps and disabled friendly elevators. But RCI meets all the specifications of a barrier-free building,” say CPWD engineers. The engineers said that the High Court building and the Spinal Injuries Centre in Vasant Kunj are also disabled friendly but do not meet all the specifications as enumerated in the manual on barrier free buildings.

The inauguration ceremony of the RCI building also saw the launch of a universally accessible and Hindi version of the RCI's website. Elaborating on the features of the website, Ahluwalia said, “This is the first time that a universally accessible website is being launched in collaboration with the National Informatics Centre (NIC). The website will benefit visually impaired and also people with hearing and speech disorders.”

There is a very useful link that enables users to not only change the font type but increase its size as well. All images have ‘alternate text', which is read by screen-reading software to identify pictures. Users can also shift between the links using the keyboard, a feature useful for those who cannot manipulate a mouse.