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Chennai to get new 24-hour disability helpline number, disability rights groups raises questions

Tamil Nadu state government is all set to launch a 24-hour-helpline service for people with disabilities in Chennai city. The caller can talk about their grievances or discrimination that they face. A similar helpline was launched in the year 2015 but closed down in a few months. Disability rights groups are now questioning the implementation of this new helpline and whether it is going to be accessible for people with all kinds of disabilities.

Getting rights and privileges is not always easy for people with disabilities. Inaccessible public places and insensitive officials can be a major hindrance. In spite of stringent laws being introduced, there has been no change in the existing situation. The Tamil Nadu state government is gearing up for a change. Reportedly, they are all set to introduce a helpline number where people with disabilities can call and talk about grievances in the city of Chennai. The government had introduced something similar in the year 2015 which was not successful and had to shut down later. Questions are now being raised whether this one will go well with the disabled community in Chennai.

According to reports, the new helpline will be operational 24 hours a day. It will help address problems faced by people with disabilities regarding documentations, getting rights and taking up complaints. Disability rights groups in the city believe that this is undoubtedly a great initiative. But the concerned department must also publicize such a facility so that people with disabilities from all spectrums of life are aware of it.

Meenakshi Balasubramanian, representing Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice (ECPSJ) says authorities must ensure that the helpline is accessible for people with all kinds of disabilities.

My concern would be how accessible it is going to be for deaf people. If the helpline is merely going to take voice messages, a deaf person will not benefit from it. They must have sign language services and interpreters if required. SMS services would also be great and it must be in both English and local language. An accessible app that can be used on all kinds of smartphones will be of great benefit. The system must logistically look into the accessibility aspect-Meenakshi Balasubramanian, Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice

Officials have not revealed more details about when the launch would happen or what more facilities can be expected from the helpline.

"This is definitely a good move", said Smita Sadasivam, Member, Disability Rights Alliance.. "The grievance system should be effective and accessible to persons with disabilities and across all requirements. The guidance or assistance must be safe, empowering and enabling a person with disability to live independently in his/her community on an equal basis with others. This must be done with respect, dignity, equal opportunities and zero discrimination. This will also allow the individual to maintain his highest potential".

Also Read: Tamil Nadu government promises to implement disability laws after protests

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