Possibly the biggest issue confront a differently-abled person is accessibility. This is a multi-faceted term and applies to many different things but the most patent of these is the access to and within places. Getting somewhere and mobility within that place are issues that confront the mobility-impaired and visually-impaired daily.
But is accessibility an issue that pertains only to the differently-abled or is it a larger issue? I think the latter. Poor, inadequately thought-through design is really what it is. It is the culture of ineffeciency and ‘chalta-hai’ thinking that plagues so much of public planning, architecture and design. The outcome is planning, construction and design that is unmindful of the needs of not just the differently-abled but pretty much everyone.
So often we see buses that children, the overweight and the elderly have a hard time getting into; David D’Souza, a wonderful photographer, friend and believer in IP, pointed out the state of the doors of Mumbai’s fiat cabs – it takes an India rubber man to flex his way into the back seat because the doors don’t open fully; public buildings with strange high steps that flummox even athletes; malls with entrances too narrow to handle multiple entries and exits; lifts with doors that spring back so soon that you could train to be a pugilist using the punching mechanism.
The common thread is lethargy, inefficiency and the ‘jugaadu’ sasta-tikaoo approach that excludes elegance, inclusivity and durability. It’s not a malice against the differently-abled – its the plague of self-serving convenience.
We need to fight inaccessibility not just because it’s hostile to millions of differently-abled but because its going to hold us back from meaningful progress as a society.