Accessibility November 30, 2020
Meet these Mumbaikars who have come together to make the city accessible for disabled people
Jasmine Khanna, an engineer with cerebral palsy and Sanket Khadilkar, a clinical physiotherapist are good friends who have now come together to start Access to Hope, an NGO that aims to make Mumbai city accessible to people with disabilities and senior citizens.
As a person living with cerebral palsy, Mumbai-based Jasmina Khanna is more aware than most about how inaccessible the city is for people with disabilities and senior citizens.
Her friend Sanket Khadilkar, a clinical physiotherapist, is not disabled but has worked closely with children with disabilities.
Together they have started Access to Hope, an NGO that aims to make Mumbai city more accessible for its residents.
“We share the same passion for working towards empowerment of the disabled”, explains Sanket, who has known Jasmina for five years. “We started talking about starting an organisation for disabled people and it helped that Jasmina had been into disability activism from before. I realised the strengths and weaknesses of a purely clinical approach towards disability and it led me to venture into other pressing issues within the disability sector”.
Enabling accessibility for all
Sanket and Jasmine tested the waters by working on an accessibility audit of Vile Parle East, a suburb in Mumbai. The experience of working closely with local municipal officials strengthened their resolve to do something concrete and long term.
We wish to focus on accessibility, inclusive education, rehabilitation and empowerment of children and adults with disability. While we would like to focus on accessibility and empowerment in general, education and rehabilitation would be geared more specifically towards cerebral palsy and its associated disabilities. – Jasmina Khanna, Engineer & Co-founder, Access to Hope
Access to Hope is currently working on a pilot project on accessibility in Mumbai’s K East ward, located in the Andheri suburb. This is a public-private partnership with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which will execute the work. The audits, design interventions and supervisions will be handled by architects and planners from the firm Nature and Nurture Architects and Planners.
“As a start, we are focusing on two major roads in Vile Parle East”, says Parul Kumtha, Principal Architect, Nature and Nurture Architects and Planners. “The entire road lengths will be first audited for accessibility problems that wheelchair users, persons with visual and hearing impairment, as well as mobility issues, face while going about their routines as they use these roads. The pavements, bus stops, crossings and street furniture and landscape will be focused upon”.
Based on the access audit, design interventions will be worked out so that people can use these public spaces without any problems. “To ensure that our efforts are in adherence to accessibility standards, we will be looking at each intervention individually and supervising the execution”, adds Kumtha.
The work they have taken on is not going to be easy given Mumbai’s population density and the overwhelming lack of awareness about what accessibility implies in the complete sense. Jasmina and Sanket say they are aware of this.
Lack of awareness a major challenge
“From our interactions so far with concerned authorities, we find they think only of ramps when it comes to accessibility when it should mean access for all, including people with physical, visual, hearing and intellectual challenges”, says Jasmina.
Having a team of architects well versed with accessibility norms is a big plus. “The government guidelines for accessible infrastructures are available. With expert architects on board, it will help to standardise the work further”, says Sanket.
The two roads identified will serve as a template for further accessibility interventions elsewhere in the Ward and hopefully in the City, says Kumtha. “Having a well worked out and executed, live template for reference could go a long way in ensuring uniformity”.
There’s no doubt that citizens organisations must come together to kickstart accessibility makeovers in large cities and Access to Hope deserves kudos for taking on this important issue.
You can visit their website here.
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