Accessibility October 18, 2020
Government move to launch ‘Sugamya Bharat’ mobile app gets mixed responses
Central government is all set to launch ‘Sugamya Bharat’ mobile app to help make public spaces more accessible and disabled friendly. The app which involves participation of general public is indeed a great idea, but disability rights activists are waiting to see how well the app is going to be implemented.
Though ‘Accessible India’ campaign, that was launched in the year 2015 promised to make all public places accessible and disabled friendly, it largely remains incomplete. A few state governments had taken up initiatives, but apart from that, Narendra Modi’s central government promise to people with disabilities remains unfulfilled. Hoping to fill the void, the The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is all set to launch a mobile app called ‘Sugamya Bharat’ which promotes public participation. Details of when the app is going to be launched remains unknown, but disability rights activists have mixed opinions.
What is ‘Sugamya Bharat’ mobile app?
The app aims for public participation. Here is what the user must do. If they find a building or a space inaccessible, take a picture of it and upload on the app which means the user has raised a complaint. A description of the inaccessible space must also be provided. The social justice ministry would take it up with concerned officials. If the matter is not addressed soon, it will be taken to head of the body from concerned department. Reminders will be sent and there will be a thorough follow up of the case.
Shakuntala Doley Gamlin, Secretary of the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities in a letter dated 7 October stated that the app was a decision taken by the Modi government in July 2019.
‘Sugamya Bharat’ will benefit not just people with disabilities, but all those who face accessibility issues including elderly, pregnant women, children and those with mobility issues. A project management unit has already been set up for running the app.
Efforts of the central government to introduce this app must be lauded. But how well will the app be implemented? Here is what some experts from India’s disabled community have to say.
Prateek Khandelwal, Founder of ‘Ramp My City’, works towards creating an accessible spaces. He says that the idea of ‘Sugamya Bharat’ looks great, but he is looking into its manifestation.
“Government had introduced a similar audit and correction for existing buildings when they launched the ‘Accessible India’ campaign. In fact, audit of government buildings in 32 smart cities were done and many design flaws were found. Hundred percent of the buildings were inaccessible, but they did not do anything in spite of funds being allotted. Inaccessibility still remains a major issue. I wonder how tedious procedures of the new app is going to be taking into account the slow speed in which government functions in the disability sector”, says Prateek.
Disability rights advocate Nipun Malhotra says, “It is an excellent idea, but this is not the first time that such initiatives are being tried. A lot of its success will depend on how fast authorities respond to such requests and how their approach is going to be. Funding also matters. Great idea on paper, looking forward to see it being implemented.”
“I feel happy about the initiative. If a disabled user can directly inform government officials, which the app says it will do, nothing like it! As a person with disability, we are unable to go to government office and speak about our problems. If we can raise our voice through a fingertip, then it is a great initiative. ATM’s, parks, essential stores, transportation, auditorium, seminar halls are some common spaces that are largely inaccessible. It is high time they are made accessible. I hope our country will have a universal infrastructure”, says Dhanya Ravi, Founder of Aasman Foundation that empowers people with disabilities.
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