'Inclusion of disabled people should be made non-negotiable'

Prasanna Kumar Pincha, Central government's Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities says hospitals have to be barrier-free for the disabled.

But the concept is relatively new and it might take some time for the idea to sink in with the people who are in charge. Visually challenged since birth, Pincha is the first person with a disability to hold this post. Excerpts from an interview with Shiv Sunny:

After your intervention, Medical Council of India issued a letter to all medical institutions to send a compliance

report on barrier-free campuses but it did not make ‘access audits’ mandatory
It was heartening to note that instructions were issued to all medical institutions to make their premises and facilities barrier-free.

While there is no explicitly mandatory provision for access audit in the existing PwD (People  with Disabilities) Act, I would like to express optimism that the access scenario should change and will change with efflux of time.

In order for legislations of this ilk to get implemented in letter and spirit, it is important to have distinct mechanisms for fixation of responsibility and accountability for non-compliance.

Because of lack of PwDs in the access audits of hospitals and medical
institutes, constructions are not being made as per norms.

No definitive information or data in respect of non-inclusion of persons with disabilities in the access audits is available with my office. The fact of the matter is that to the extent possible, inclusion of PwDs should be made non-negotiable. However, anyone with a sane and sensible head over his shoulders is bound to favour the idea of taking on board persons with disabilities, or for that matter, the expertise of lived experience of disabilities.

Will inclusion of ‘disability studies’ in the medical curriculum help break
attitudinal barriers?

I have consistently maintained that breaking of attitudinal barriers must precede the breaking of other barriers.

The fact is that other barriers will get dismantled in a phased manner over a period of time if attitudinal barriers break. Yes, inclusion of ‘disability studies’ in the medical curriculum will be an important step in the direction of changing attitudinal barriers in the future doctors, and will make them more aware of visible and invisible disabilities.
The Rehabilitation Council of India is doing its best to include disability module in medical curriculum

Most of the hospital websites are still inaccessible to PwDs.

To my mind this is a larger issue.  It’s not just the hospital websites but most other websites are yet to be made accessible for persons with disabilities. My office, the Department of Disability Affairs, Government of India and other authorities continue to make relentless efforts to make all government websites accessible.
 
The Department of Disability Affairs, Govt. of India’s scheme for providing financial assistance for this purpose is a case in point.

How practically possible is a completely barrier-free environment in hospitals?

The hospitals have to be barrier-free. To a large extent, efforts are made to incorporate barrier-free features in hospitals as I observe.

However, the concept being relatively new, it does take a little time for the concerned people to internalise the idea and to implement the relevant laws.  This task also requires construction, retrofitting and, of course, resources.

Why can't we include more PwDs in policy matters?

Of course we can. The active involvement of persons with disabilities and also of organisations working in the disability sector in putting together the draft of a new legislation which will replace the existing Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 is a case in point. Besides, two Deputy Commissioners for PwDs in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan respectively happen to be PwDs. Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat also had PwDs as State Commissioners for PwDs.  Therefore, slowly but surely inclusion in that sense is happening.

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