Providing books to an illiterate is of no use until you make him learn how to read and write. Establishing hospitals in a remote area is no use if the facilities are not in reach of the poor. Similarly, staircases are of no use for wheelchair users. Provision and access of utilities are two different sides of the coin and the latter is not even an option for people with disabilities. This takes us to the question of accessibility and its subjective understanding in real life.
Disability is not a choice; it is a given. And to socially exclude a person for what fate he/she holds is plainly ignorant and blatant. This articles aims to maneuver between the broader notion of accessibility and acknowledgement of people who are often waived off from the mainstream, fast paced urban, or for that matter, rural culture. The pathways, signals, staircase which seem very normal to us might present barriers to people with disabilities; mostly because there is little or no need assessment by the authorities responsible for designing the outlook of the city. This writing is presented with an effort to break through the privilege cocoon of being abled; to ask questions and reflect; What does accessibility mean to us? How can we ensure accessibility to the people with disability? What are the types of accessibilities? Where does this effort start from?
There are various viewpoints to guaranteeing access for people with disabilities. The very obvious and understood is the physical: planning and building or changing structures and spaces to fit in with the requirements and incorporating those with inabilities. Accessibility in terms of better and convenient mobility calls for developing infrastructure that can facilitate the needs of people. What’s more? Social barriers and/or attitude creating an unfavorable environment for PWD’s, for example, discrimination in the field of employment, education, health etc. Lastly, there are political contemplations: attempting to fortify and authorize the laws that do exist, and devising policies to secure the rights of people with disabilities in nations that don’t have them. Maybe most significant is raising the cognizance of the individuals who structure offices, businesses, and the network and society about the rights and needs of individuals with disabilities
Accessibility, according to the presented argument is a state of living – which complies to a barrier free environment where all people across the spectrums of age, gender, sex and abilities are incorporated and celebrated. The need here is a paradigm shift. A shift in viewing disability in its real sense and not over sympathizing the cause. The more individuals with inabilities can get to physical facilities, the more they will be a piece of the all- inclusive community. As opposed to creating inconvenience, embarrassment or even dread, they’ll be seen increasingly as any other individual – as people, with exceptional characters, strengths and limitations. That is, all things considered, the goal: for people with disabilities to have the option to live their lives similarly as every other person does, battling day to day challenges, appreciating the high points, and not having to worry about straightforward things like getting up a trip of stairs.
Written by Munira Mustafa (Intern at NOWPDP)