Accessibility September 18, 2020
Case filed with Karnataka Disability Commissioner against prominent Bengaluru residential society for RPWD violations
A visually impaired lawyer in Bengaluru has filed a case against a prominent residential welfare association in the city with the Karnataka State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities. The complainant Dr Kalyan C. Kankanala alleges that his rights to live and participate in housing society matters were ignored despite repeated requests.
Sections 3, 5 and 8 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 guarantees Equality and non-discrimination, right to community life and protection and safety to all people with disabilities.
Rights Dr Kalyan C. Kankanala, a visually impaired lawyer in Bengaluru, says he has never enjoyed as a flat owner at Elita Promenade, a posh residential society. Kalyan bought a flat here about 10 years ago.
“From the beginning there were several accessibility problems, but I chose not to make too much of an issue of them”, says Kalyan. When the issues kept piling up, he decided to raise them with the Elita Promenade Apartment Owners Association.
Accessibility issues ignored
“There were no accessible pathways for persons with disabilities or Braille numbers in the elevators. Specific parking slots for people with disabilities were not given”, says Kalyan. His appeals to resolve these matters went nowhere and he felt stonewalled.
Even important society-related matters and developments were inaccessible. “The APNACOMPLEX app used by society residents to share information was not accessible to visually impaired persons. I offered to make this accessible but the committee was unresponsive. Even my request for documents in an accessible format were ignored”.
Matters finally came to a head in July this year when housing society elections were held.
I asked the committee for reasonable accommodations to vote in the election by way of email after my wife, who is the primary owner, decided not to vote. Given that visually impaired people are at higher risk of Covid infection, I requested them to make an exception and let me vote by email. They did nothing about it. The committee made exceptions for elderly persons due to Covid risks but nothing for me though they knew about my disability. – Dr Kalyan C Kankanala, Visually impaired lawyer
Angry and upset with this discriminatory attitude and the repeated denial of his right to participate equally, Kalyan sent a legal notice to the members who held the election. They sent him a counter notice. “Among other things the notice said that persons with disabilities do not have the right to ask for accommodations that suit them, and that access in the community is subject to discretion of the association”, says Kalyan.
Smear campaign follows
The notice also said that Kalyan’s membership in the association and community activities is at the generosity of the association.
Kalyan alleges the committee soon started campaigns to discredit and humiliate him, forcing him to move out. “This experience affected my work badly and I decided to rent a place elsewhere in the city and move out”.
Kalyan filed a case in August with the Karnataka State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities against the Elita Promenade Apartment Owners Association under Section 80 of the RPWD Act and Rule 37 of the Karnataka Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules. Following this, a hearing was held on 11 September by State Disability Commissioner V S Basavaraju. At the hearing members of the housing committee were present.
“The SCPD has directed the association to set up a committee to look into the issues raised and frame house rules in three months”, says Kalyan.
Kalyan is clear that he will come back to his flat in Elita Promenade only when the rules change. “This is not just about me but people with disabilities living in housing societies across the state. I would be happy of the SCPD gives written recommendations to all residential welfare associations in Karnataka. That would be the true victory”.
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