However, some of the establishments in the country are contributing towards making necessary changes. The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum, is one such establishment. The institution has focussed on inclusion and accessibility for the disabled. It has made sure that the specially-abled can access any part of the museum without any trouble. Ramps, elevators, hydraulic lifts and braille signage are there to help these people.
“We genuinely believe that any kind of person, from any kind of circumstance should have equal accessibility to the museum and what it has to offer. So, in keeping with that motto of ours, we have implemented several projects, several small projects which have provided accessibility to the differently abled people,” said Bilwa Kulkarni, the Education Officer at the museum.
Malini Chib, a woman who defied all odds to emerge victorious in spite of a disability and an indifferent society and authored the book ‘One Little Finger’ says, “I am very impressed with the museum, it’s completely accessible. It’s like any foreign museum. But we must also remember that access does not only mean ramps and toilets and being able to take the wheel chair; access to education, access to schools, to colleges like Malini had said, to public places, its access to employment.”
Inclusion is a challenge that needs urgent government action. The sad reality in India is the lack of understanding and indifference. Bus stands and railway stations are almost impossible to access for the disabled. Visiting retail stores and other public places like markets are still a nightmare for specially-abled people. Even basic amenities like public toilets are unfriendly for these people.
“We had to file a Public Interest Litigation in 2002. But, however we still find that there is a huge lack of implementation especially in our city. We find that several public places and for that matter even private places which are very often visited by persons with disabilities are not accessible. There has been substantial effort in the sector to try and get a new disability act. However, that still remains to be brought on to the statute books,” said Jamshed Mistry, senior lawyer.
While cities across the world have moved towards being disabled friendly, India lags behind. Places like Chicago even offer discounts for wheelchair users. But Mumbai, which dreams of becoming Shanghai, may find it difficult to get there, if the challenge of accessibility for the disabled is not met.