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Cities must not isolate those with disabilities


One of the primary missions of the Smart City project in Pune is to make the roads safer — for all road users including pedestrians, non-motorized transport, public transport and private vehicles. However, the needs of people with disabilities are rarely ever considered.

According to the 2011 census, Maharashtra is among the states with a high number of disabled people — 11.05% of the total population of India and almost 35% of them are working.

World over too, the numbers are grim. The United Nations has released estimates saying that by 2050, a whopping 66% of the world's population will be living in cities. About 15% of this number will be people suffering from disabilities that will limit their access to urban infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, community centres and even something as basic as a cash machine. Here's another fact: According to the UN, for an estimated one billion persons with disabilities across the world, ill-planned urban centres that lack accessibility often force them into corners — they are unable to take the trains; walk the footpaths; hail cabs or bus- for es; use public toilets. It's no wonder then were that those using wheelchairs or walking sticks are today faced with increasing loneliness. India has a space programme, but doesn’t have disabled-friendly footpaths.

Is it not the duty of the government then to improve accessibility for people with disabilities? Mind you, we are not talking about reconstructing entire structures, but the introduction of a few things can make their life easier. Several cities around the world are urging both public and private establishments to improve disabled access. In London, for example, almost every tourist centre has a flat surface. All of the city's 8,000 buses can "kneel" for disabled passengers; the cabs have technologies to accommodate wheelchairs; and even some of the piers that passengers can use for river-based transport services , have step-free access from pier to boat.

In order to improve the quality of life, it is necessary to improve access to urban public transportation and footpaths both in developed cities as well as in developing cities. A good city is one that accommodates aspirations. It cannot stop a student in a wheelchair from reaching a school.


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