GUWAHATI, March 24 - With hardly any mention of accessibility for persons with disabilities, the Smart City mission, which is greatly reliant on technology, might widen the digital divide for the disabled people, ageing communities and others, feel experts while asking for a greater focus on accessibility for all in the Smart Cities.
Guwahati is among the 20 cities of the country to be developed as Smart City in the first phase.
Crusader for disability rights Javed Abidi at a roundtable on inclusive Smart Cities and associability for the persons with disability, stressed that disability should no more be seen as an isolated condition with increasing number of people acquiring some forms of disabling condition due to old age.
Organised today by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People and Shishu Sarothi, the roundtable stressed the importance of integrating elements of universal design for better accessibility right from the design and development stage so that the issue does not get cornered despite having proper legislation in place.
It needs mention here that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act passed in 2016 has provisions to ensure accessibility in all public buildings (both government and private) within a prescribed time frame.
“Since the legal mandate is already there and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also throwing his weight behind the cause with accessible India campaign, we need the right level of sensitisation and planning for executing things,” Abidi said.
Ravi Capoor, Additional Chief Secretary, Industries and Commerce, in his address, said that timely sensitisation of the policy makers and also the corporate is necessary to prepare a blueprint to create a greater focus on accessibility in the Smart City mission, which will also include minimising the digital divide.
Analysing the global trends in accessible Smart Cities, James Thurston, vice president, Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communication Technologies, said that as the global community has recognised access to technology as a basic human right, the digital inclusion is impacting people in the right way.
While attending the programme, Director of Social Welfare SS Meenakshi Sundaram said that the Smart City solution must be designed keeping in mind different economic strata of society. Managing Director of Guwahati Smart City Limited, Manavendra Pratap Singh stated that different perspectives would be incorporated, including the accessibility for persons with disabilities, to make Guwahati a Smart City in every sense. “The Smart City concept has no hard and fast definition. The mission envisages making citizen service delivery more efficient. The more inclusive it is, the more successful it would be called,” he added.
In his welcome speech, executive director of Shishu Sarothi Arman Ali stressed a collaborative effort on the part of all the stakeholders for ensuring the convenience of all. “A place which is accessible for the persons with disabilities, would certainly be more accessible for the other people, that would definitely result in a win-win situation for all,” he said.