The Centre's latest initiative 'Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan' or 'Accessible India Campaign' is a belated step in the right direction. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, presently in Parliament, is intended to codify India's obligations under the convention
The campaign envisages making all the international airports in the country and railway stations of A1, A & B categories fully accessible to the differently abled by July 2016. At least 10 percent of the government-owned public transport carriers in the country will be converted into fully accessible carriers for these persons by March 2018. At least 50 percent of all government buildings in the national capital and all state capitals will be made fully accessible by July 2018.
By March 2018, at least 50 per cent of all public documents issued by the Central and State governments would have to meet accessibility standards. The Centre has also decided to set up a special University for Persons with Disabilities. Although the Accessible India Campaign is aimed at enabling persons with disabilities to gain universal access, equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in all aspects of life in an inclusive society; it does not fully conform to the requirements under the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which India ratified in 2007.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, presently in Parliament, is intended to codify India's obligations under the convention, while consolidating multiple laws pertaining to people with disabilities. The convention adopted a rights-based approach to people with disabilities. 'Accessibility', therefore, is not confined to constructing buildings that have ramps or building appropriate roads.
Its accent is on ensuring that people with disabilities have access to transportation systems, signs that are both audio and Braille, sports auditoriums, public facilities, hospitals, malls, clinics and other facilities as well. All said and done, the larger goal should be to ensure the new piece of legislation for India's 70 million people with disabilities is fully in consonance with the letter and spirit of the UN convention.