Translate The Content in Your Local Language

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Final voters roll in a week, says CEO Rajesh Lakhoni

More than 3.7 lakh names have been deleted from the voters roll so far and with the Election Commission intensifying corrections related to voters list, more names will be deleted ahead of Assembly polls, Chief Electoral Officer Rajesh Lakhoni said on Tuesday.

Political parties have submitted representations informing double entries and bogus names with invalid data. All such complaints are being attended and the ongoing process of cleansing the voters roll will continue till the end of this month, Lakhoni told DC. Through computerised corrections, 1.80 lakh double entries have been deleted. In case of deaths after verification, 1.90 lakh names have been dropped from the list.

In the meantime, names of those who are above 18 years of age are also being added to the voters roll. Since last month, about 62,000 physically challenged persons have been added. Special efforts are also made for this election to ensure that all booths are friendly for aged and physically challenged, he said.

Online complaints seeking corrections in voters roll is also picking up and 85,000 deletion requests are now under scrutiny with the Commission and phone complaints received through 1950 is also addressed in a phased manner, he said.

In a week’s time, the public (election) department will be ready with the final voters roll and the ongoing issue of new voter identity cards in the five flood- affected districts including Chennai, Cuddalore and Kancheepuram is nearing completion.

Issues pertaining to polls like provision of additional para military force, augmentation of facilities at the existing polling booths and meeting with five district Collectors on poll arrangements are also scheduled for the next few days, the CEO added.

Source : Deccan Chronicle , 24th Feb 2016

All for a solid start - HYDERABAD

Twenty two-year old Akshay Gunteti is on a 30-city Indian Startup tour across the country to help emerging firms

Akshay Gunteti

Akshay Gunteti, a 22-year-old Khammam-based entrepreneur and curator of the Indian Startup Tour, is all set to cycle his way across 30 cities in the country, from Raheja Mindspace in Hyderabad to Jammu over the next one year.

He’s doing this to document the challenges being faced by Indian startups, to talk to them, make them more aware of the ecosystem they’re surrounded by, taking several parameters into consideration including the region's cost-of-living, the legal framework, and the governmental schemes that can come to their aid.

“This is a country that has policies favouring the MNCs more than the startups. Many entrepreneurs have an interesting idea, make mistakes and give up rather easily. I want them to speak up, so that others can learn from their experience. Most companies don’t know the legalities that exist, the terms they need to maintain with the investors, the documentation aspects with respect to agreements too. I’ll also be conducting workshops in all the places I travel and organise ideation programs,” says the ambitious youngster, full of energy.

“Israel, a country booming with startups, boasts of a greater GDP than ours. We score better in the number of startups, then why are we falling short?” he asks, as if to explain another reason for this tour.

Every place that Akshay travels, he emphasises the need for the communities to get involved rather than depending on government support. On the back-end, he’s also receiving help from his co-curator Nidhiya V Raj, who’ll be providing him crucial connections and readying schedules from time to time. “I’m planning to write blogs and ask people to share the data with those who can help. There’s no political colour to this,” he assures and is thinking of visiting villages that are close to the city too.

The time he plans to stay in each place, depends on the number of startups in the area. He’ll prepare weekly reports and has ideas to start a Youtube channel to record his live experiences. Akshay plans to make this a ready-reckoner guide before entrepreneurs can make their idea a reality.

Akshay is well aware of the challenges ahead. On an average he needs to cycle 100 km a day to stick to his schedule, and intends to spend Rs 150-200 from his pocket, a day.

“I also need to pay my staff who’ll be working through the year. I’m expecting people to join, volunteer and help me through this. I'll rely on them for accommodation. I have received several funding offers but I’m not doing this for commercial interests. I’m living my entrepreneurial dream well but I wanted to do something to better the startup atmosphere ,” he says.

Akshay was shocked to face a lot of detractors, who had suspected his capabilities to take on the initiative. Besides strong support from his parents who were only concerned about his health, one incident provided him the impetus for the tour.

“A physically challenged person mentioned that I was living his dream of travelling across cities and making a difference. Just that his impairment didn’t give him a chance to do so. He wanted me to just go ahead. Out of the thousands I’m about to meet, I hope to motivate at least a few hundreds.”

Source : The Hindu , 25th Feb 2016 

Govt. to recognise diploma course for trainers of mentally challenged - MANGALURU

Students of Saannidhya school for special children performing at a function in Mangaluru on Wednesday. —Photo: H.S. Manjunath
Students of Saannidhya school for special children performing at a function in Mangaluru on Wednesday.

Govindaraju, Director, Department for the Empowerment of Differently-Abled and Senior Citizens, has said that the State government will recognise the six-month diploma course on vocational skills for trainers of mentally challenged.

The Karnataka State Association of Special Educators have been demanding recognition for the six-month diploma course run by the unit of Centre for Continuing Technical Education in Karnataka of the Department of Technical Education in Government Women’s Polytechnic at the Saanidhya Residential School. This course is meant to enable trainers with skills that help them to provide mentally and physically challenged children vocational skills.

Though two batches of trainers have passed out, this course was yet to be recognised by the State government. The Government Women’s Polytechnic’s principal B.N. Kumbar said that there had been no response from the Department for Empowerment of Differently-Abled to his letter written in June 2015 in this regard.

Mr. Govindaraju has claimed that the department has initiated the process of recognising this course. The department would lay down, among others, the qualification, infrastructure, fee and vocational skills for the course. “I have initiated discussions with stakeholders. The government is committed to recognising this course,” he said.

Administrator of Saanidhya Residential School Vasanth Kumar Shetty said the diploma course for the trainers had been designed on the curriculum of National Institute of Mentally Handicapped in Hyderabad. So far as many as 44 persons have completed the course so far.

Candidates, who have completed the course, said the course had brought change in the way they take care of children. “All the while, we only took care of these children’s day-to-day needs. Now we can teach them candle making, envelope making and other skills that makes children self reliant. This is much needed for these children,” said S.M. Kallimath, a teacher associated with the Bapuji Residential School of Mentally Challenged Children in Gajendragad for over 20 years.

Mr. Kallimath and 21 other candidates on Wednesday received certificates for completing the course in December 2015.

Source : The Hindu , 25th Feb 2016 

Bodybuilding competition in Udupi - Karnataka

E-Fitness and the Association of Bodybuilders, Udupi, will organise a State-level bodybuilding competition titled ‘Mr. Karnataka – 2016’ at the Shamili Auditorium here on February 27.

Addressing presspersons here on Wednesday, John Rebello, working president of the Karnataka Association of Bodybuilders, said that there would be competitions in body weight categories of 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, 80, 85, and above 85 kg. The first five winners in each category will be given a cash prize of Rs. 25,000.

The first prize winner of every category would qualify for ‘Mr. Karnataka – 2016’ title round. The title winner would get a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh and a trophy. The runner-up will get Rs. 40,000 in cash and a trophy. Men aged above 40 could compete in the masters category, which would be further divided into three groups – 40-50, 50-60, and above 60. The first five winners of each category would be awarded with Rs. 25,000 in each category. The master title winner would be awarded Rs. 25,000 and a trophy.

The competition for the physically challenged would be held in two categories – below 60 kg and above 60 kg. The first winner of each category will be awarded Rs. 22,000, while the title winner will get a cash prize of Rs. 10,000. There will be a best poser competition and the winner would get Rs. 10,000.

The ‘Mr. Udupi – 2016’ district-level body building competition would be held at the same venue at 10.30 a.m. The first five winners of each category would be eligible for ‘Mr. Karnataka – 2016’ State-level bodybuilding competition. The first winners in each category of Mr. Udupi would get certificates, while the top three would get gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively. The ‘Mr. Udupi’ title winner and the runner-up will be awarded trophies, Mr. Rebello said.

Source : The Hindu , 25th Feb 2016 

‘Aashayein’ to motivate the challenged ones - HUBBALLI

Members of the Aashraya Foundation, all college students, briefing presspersonsin Hubballi on Wednesday about the event they have organised to motivatephysically challenged children.— PHOTO: KIRAN BAKALE
Members of the Aashraya Foundation, all college students, briefing press persons in Hubballi on Wednesday about the event they have organised to motivate physically challenged children
The zeal to give back something to society has made a group of young students from Hubballi to come up with an event to motivate the physically and mentally challenged children.

What started as a small initiative by a group of 20 students has now taken the shape of a foundation, which they have named as Aashraya Foundation. Having registered their foundation, they have now roped in Vinod Thakur, fondly known as the Legless Break Dancer, to perform here to motivate other physically challenged children.

Aashraya Foundation president Rohit Bhandari, secretary Kishan Kataria and member Pankaj Sharma told presspersons here on Wednesday that 4,000 persons, a majority of them physically and mentally challenged, and from orphanages, would participate in the event called “Aashayein” to be held at Railway Ground in Hubballi on February 27 at 4 p.m.

Mr. Kishan Kataria said that five or six troupes of physically challenged children would perform during the event. In addition to Mr Vinod Thakur, entertainer Saravana Dhanapal from Bengaluru would perform during the show.

Mr. Rohit Bhandari said that they planned to donate a laptop to a visually impaired student preparing for competitive examinations during the event, which was open for all.

The group members have a plan to launch a “Blood App” for helping needy patients to get blood immediately. “We have a database of 1,000 voluntary blood donors,” they said.

Source : The Hindu, 25th Feb 2016 

'Use of tech may help living of physically-challenged people' - BANGLADESH

Speakers at a workshop said on Wednesday the use of technology may help living of physically-challenged people.

The speakers made the comments while addressing the closing ceremony of a workshop on "Promoting Persons with Disabilities through Participation in Media" organised by Institute of Communication Studies (ICS) with the assistance of European Union (EU) and Sightsavers, an international non-governmental organisation at BRAC Centre Inn in the city on Wednesday.

Dr Mashiur Rahman, economic adviser to the Prime Minister, attended the function as the chief guest while Chief Information Commissioner Prof Dr M Golam Rahman was the guest of honour.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Mashiur said: "Technology facilitates human's life in almost every aspect. And so, there are many devices that could help a disabled person to overcome the respective constraint." Encouraging the participants, he said a physically disabled person cannot impede an individual, if he exploits his intelligence with sufficient effort.

Underscoring the equal rights of everybody in the society, Dr M Golam Rahman said: "Creating separate identity for the handicapped people enlarges the gap between them and the other people." "The disability, actually, exists in our mind; not in our body" he said.

According to the organiser, some 20 people with several sorts of disabilities attended the month-long training course on journalism. Nearly half of them are now doing internship with several media houses.

Source : Financial Express , 25th Feb 2016

Residents set high hopes on Rail Budget

Residents have pinned high hopes on the Union Rail Budget which is scheduled to be presented tomorrow in the Lok Sabha by Union Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu.
Residents’ wishlist that include regularisation of the Bathinda-New Delhi Shatabdi Express, Banaras special train and Nanded Express, starting of new trains, extension of washing line and initiation work on the Takth Damdama Sahib-Rama Mandi link that was announced in the previous rail budget, is endless.
Residents have demanded that the 13111 Lal Quila Express, 12451 Shram Shakti Express, 12559 Shivganga Express and 12555 Gorakhdham Express be extended to Bathinda from Delhi. As these trains remained stationed at Delhi for a long time, hence, these can be extended to Bathinda.
Mahesh Kumar, a city resident, said these long route trains should be extended to Bathinda as there were a large number of passengers in the city who change trains from Delhi for their further journey and the move would provide a relief to them as in that case they had to board only one train.
Poor connectivity
Poor rail connectivity of the Malwa region with the rest of the state is hampering the development of the region. Several proposals forwarded in the past have not been implemented. More trains between Bathinda to Amritsar and Ludhiana should be started.
Sukhdeep Singh, a trader, said there was a need to increase trains between Bathinda and the major cities of the state. The railway minister must announce more trains to improve railway connectivity between Bathinda to Amritsar and Ludhiana. Many passengers had to travel to these major cities of the state from the city, but due to less connectivity, they had to travel by bus.
Change in time sought
Passengers are also demanding that the scheduled time of the Shatabdi Express should be changed as it should depart from Bathinda to Delhi in the morning and it should return to Bathinda from Delhi in the evening. At present it runs from Delhi for the city at 9 am and then leaves for Delhi from Bathinda in the evening at 4.15 pm on two days (Monday and Saturday) only.
Dr Ajay Garg, another resident, said Shatabdi Express had failed to get a lukewarm response as the timings of the train were not suitable as instead of running from Delhi at 9 am, it should have gone from Bathinda at 6 am and in the evening it should depart from Delhi for Bathinda, then it would have benefited traders in the city.
Basic amenities needed

There are no ramps on any of platforms for physically challenged. The foot overbridge does not have the ramp facility which can be used by physically challenged to ride their tricycles. The steep flight of stairs on the foot overbridge is impossible to ascend due to which it is difficult for the physically challenged and elderly to reach platforms for boarding a train.
Even no wheelchair or stretcher is available at the railway station, particularly during night hours for the physically challenged, sick and senior citizens to board the train.
Gurmeet Singh, resident, said the railway minister must take the initiative in the Budget to uplift facilities and security for passengers at the station and on trains as well.
Separate women coaches
Residents have also demanded to introduce seperate coaches for women in trains. Atul Garg, a local resident, said many a times women travel alone. If there are separate coaches for women, then it will provide safety to them.
Many states have set up separate departments to look after the pace of rail projects, but Punjab does not have a separate department for the purpose.

Source : The Tribune , 24th Feb 2016 

Unfriendly workplaces for PWDs

Employers should overcome mental barriers

There are ample researches and reports that clearly show that people with disabilities (PWDs) are not inefficient, rather our workplaces are poorly equipped to accommodate physically challenged people. Generally, PWDs are dedicated to their work and waste very little time in their workplace.
Lack of adequate transport, ramps, lifts and PWD friendly communication facilities hinders PWDs' access to workplaces. Most importantly, it is the mindset of the employers that is barring PWDs from getting decent jobs. Even the 10 percent quota reserved for PWDs remains unfulfilled. Being unemployed, most of them have to sit idle at home that only exacerbates their woes. If a PWD gets a decent job it contributes to the well-being of the family as well as to the economy. So we should consider it not only as a social responsibility but also an economic opportunity.

PWDs should be given the work they are comfortable with. The workplace should be constructed following the global standards to facilitate their access. There are many PWD friendly software and technologies, most of them are free, that need to be installed in the workplaces. Both the government and non-government bodies have to invest more in this regard. We should provide proper training to PWDs so that they can compete in the job market. The employers need to be made aware of the fact that PWDs are not a burden but a potential source of skilled workforce.

Source : The Daily Star , 25th Feb 2016

Frustrated, post-graduate returns all his certificates

A physically challenged man with sound higher education in Lalmonirhat returned all his academic certificates to the government yesterday.

Frustrated for not getting any government jobs, physically challenged Mahafuzar Rahman of Lalmonirhat returned all his academic certificates to the government on Tuesday.

Mahafuzar Rahman, 35, did so out of frustration over not getting any government jobs despite trying for years.

With no use of his right hand since birth, Mahafuzar struggled a lot to achieve the certificates.

Yesterday, he returned his certificates to the Lalmonirhat deputy commissioner. On behalf of the DC, Additional Deputy Commissioner Rezaul Alam Sarker received the certificates.

“I returned all my academic certificates to the government, as these certificates didn't help me get a job,” said Mahafuzar of Teesta Ratipur village in Sadar upazila.

“The certificates had become a burden for me, so I returned them to the government.”

“I applied for a job in several government departments over the last few years but didn't get any,” he said.
The last time Mahafuzar applied for a government job was in October 2012. He sat for a written test and faced a viva-voce for the post of a teacher in primary school.
“I qualified for the written test and took the viva-voce test too. But I was not selected,” he said. He claimed that the recruitment board did not follow the quota for people with disabilities.
Mahafuzar urged the government to ensure jobs for the disabled who are educated.
He said he was feeling better after returning the certificates.
“I will earn my livelihood by giving private lessons to students of my village. If that is not possible, I will start grocery business,” Mahafuzar said.
His wife Nasrin Nahar Lucky, 27, who completed master's from Rangpur Begum Rokeya University, said her husband got extremely disappointed after he was not selected for the primary school job.
“My husband did the right thing [by returning his certificates],” she said.
Mahafuzar's father Syed Ali, a retired schoolteacher, echoed Nasrin.
Third among five siblings, Mahfuzur was the most brilliant student among them. His elder brother, Jahangir Alam, is a lecturer at a local college, and another brother is a businessman, family members said.
Mahafuzar passed SSC in 1998 and HSC in 2001 from two institutions under Rajshahi board and secured first division in both the examinations. He completed his bachelor's and master's degrees in business studies in 2005 and 2006 from Rangpur Carmichael College and got second class in both.
In 2007, he got registered as a physically disabled man with Lalmonirhat Social Welfare Department and his registration number is Lal/29.
Shamiul Islam, deputy director of Social Welfare Department in Lalmonirhat, said, “We only issue certificates to the disabled, and the recruitment boards check the certificates.”
ADC Rezaul Alam said he received Mahafuzar's certificates along with an application with the DC's permission. “These certificates and the application will be sent to the higher authorities concerned.”

Source : The Daily Star , 25th Feb 2016

Thozha is Full of Life and Laughter: Nagarjuna

Director Vamsi’s Thozha (Oopiri in Telugu) caught the attention of film buffs and industry pundits immediately as soon as the cast was announced. Reason, it was to bring together two top heroes from two film industries Nagarjuna and Karthi together. 
Says actor Nagarjuna, who plays a physically challenged person in the film, “I had watched this French film Intouchables some four or five years aog and I really loved it. I wished that someone would make it here and I must have wished very hard for PVP and Vamsi Paidipally decided to make it. Not only did they decide to make it, they approached me for the role. I agreed and that was how I became a part of this project.”
The actor says he had to make quite an effort to play the role as the character was a demanding one. “It was very difficult to play such a role as one cannot move any part of one’s body. One could only use one’s eyes. Even neck movement was restricted. So, it was quite a challenge,” says the actor, who says he prefers calling the film Thozha as it is a new Tamil word he has learnt.
“This film Thozha tells you that as long as you have someone with you, you can face anything. And by someone, I mean someon who cares for you -- it could be a friend, a partner, a relative. This film is about a billionaire who is physically challenged and on the other side, you have the character played by Karthi, who comes from the slums, who believes only money can buy friends. The film is all about what happens when the two become friends. There is not one dull moment in the film. It is full of life and laughter and I loved doing it,” says Nagarjuna.
Director Vamsi hails from the same Telugu industry but Karthi is from the Tamil industry. How was it working with Karthi? “Usually, I am very skeptical about working with another star because I like to keep things simple. However, with Karthi, I did not feel like I was working with a co-star. I felt like as if I was working with a friend. In fact, Karthi was like a younger brother. I don’t remember a single place when I felt uncomfortable while working on this film and likewise I think he too wouldn’t have felt uncomfortable at any point,” he signs off.

Source : The New Indian Express, 24th Feb 2016 

Southern Railway’s Chennai division to spend Rs 30 crore on passenger amenities - CHENNAI

The Chennai division of Southern Railway will spend Rs 30 crore to improve passenger amenities in the current financial year. This is an increase of Rs 12 crore from the previous years, divisional railway manager (DRM) Anupam Sharma said during a meeting with passenger representatives on Wednesday.

Sharma was chairing a meet of the Divisional Rail Users Consultative Committee (DRUCC) Meet.

Members raised several issues regarding cleanliness, train stoppages and facilities at suburban stations. Specific requests regarding cleanliness and escalators at Fort station were put forth. In response, the DRM said two escalators would be provided at Chetpet station.

A DRUCC member requested a pharmacy at Guindy station.

M Kishore Kumar, a DRUCC member, raised the issue of lack of food plaza at Chennai Central station. "Long-distance passengers don't have any place to sit and have food," he said.

In response, the Southern Railway officials said an executive lounge would come up within 2-3 months, which would have the requisite facilities.

Members also raised the issue of difficulties experienced by differently persons while travelling in trains and demanded that railways prevent misuse of facilities given specifically to physically challenged people.

Source : TOI , 23rd Feb 2016 

Puducherry govt disburses loans for disabled people

Puducherry Chief Minister N Rangasamy today disbursed a sum of Rs 2.42 crores as loan to around 270 differently-abled persons to enable them to start self-employment projects implemented by the Corporation for Development of Women and Physically Challenged persons. 

He said the government was implementing the schemes to promote self-employment among differently-abled so that they could stand on their own legs and enhance their socio-economic status. 

The loan was meant to help the beneficiaries start ventures such as computer centres, provision centres, clothing outlet and other business units. 

The fund was allotted from the National Corporation for the Welfare of Physically Handicapped people. 

Chairman of the Corporation K Pandian detailed the projects operated by the Corporation here. 

He said that loan disbursed today related to the fiscal 2015-2016.

Source : Business Standard , 24th Feb 2016  

Karnataka competitive examinations: Physically challenged vie for Professors posts - 403 candidates have locomotor disability, 40 with blindness to appear for recruitment exam.

Physically challenged protest at Freedom Park for various demands, in Bengaluru on Thursday (Photo: DC)
 Physically challenged protest at Freedom Park for various demands, in Bengaluru on Thursday 
They are either physically disabled or blind. But this has not stopped them from doing their post graduation in subjects like computer science, economics, mathematics, physics and chemistry. And now they are competing with the very best appearing for the competitive examinations to be conducted by the Karnataka Examination Authority (KEA) from March 2 to 6 for the posts of assistant professors in government colleges.

As many as 403 candidates with locomotor disability and cerebral palsy and 40 blind candidates are appearing for the examination being held for recruitment of 2,160 Assistant Professors in Government First Grade Colleges in the state.

As these appointments are being made after seven years, thousands of postgraduates with NET , KSET, or PhDs to their name have applied.

Undeterred about competing with those who are both sighted and able, those with cerebral palsy and locomotor disability have turned out in big number to apply for the positions.

KEA officials themselves were taken by surprise when they found that several candidates suffering from locomotor disability and cerebral palsy had successfully completed their postgraduation in subjects like management, computer science, economics, mathematics, physics and chemistry. “For example four students with locomotor disability have done their PG in mathematics. Another five have done their PG in chemistry , while five more have done it in physics. Twelve have done their PG in computer science and 23 have done their MBA,” says an officer.

A disabled candidate ,who did not want to be identified, said it was all about mind over matter. “The state government has not made any appointment to the First Grade Colleges for the last few years. As there will be no interview, the appointments are being done through a transparent process. So everyone is interested. We are too. After all where there is a will, there is a way," he said.

Source : Deccan Chronicle , 26th Feb 2016

Parking privilege for VVIPs on Brigade Road, police clueless - Bangaluru

“Parking for VIP & VVIP Vehicles Only.” Proclaiming reserved space for the privileged class, this board has been put up in the name of Bengaluru Traffic Police right at the entrance of Brigade Road. But the city traffic police have no clue why its name is used on a stretch where parking is managed by the Brigade Road Shops’and Establishments’ Association (BSEA) and BBMP.

Traffic police are clueless about this boardwhich reserves parking space for the privileged class on Brigade Road. DH PHOTO

Motorists sought to know why the VVIP board had been installed on a public road. They had no issues with another board displayed a few blocks away on the same road, reserving parking space for vehicles operated by the physically handicapped. They were also ready to pay and park on the designated slots covered by automated parking meters.

When contacted, traffic police officials said they would never put up such a board in their jurisdiction. 

“An assistant commissioner of police even said he would get the board removed. Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, M A Saleem reiterated that the police had nothing to do with such reservation of parking space on the Brigade Road stretch. 

However, a BSEA office-bearer contended that it had put up the board in “concurrence” with the traffic police. The plan for allotting parking slots for VIPs, VVIPs and the physically handicapped was drawn up in its agreement with the BBMP. The Palike was aware of the arrangement, the BSEA person said. 

The Association had inked an agreement with BBMP to instal automated parking meters on the showpiece stretch. The system was arguably the first such in the country, and had been inaugurated by the then chief minister Dharam Singh in June 2004. 

Source : Deccan Herald , 23rd Feb 2016

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Making Smart Cities Smartly Accessible

Smart Cities - smartly titled, youth appealing and towards a modern Mauritius. The Smart Cities are often bargained by the Government as a promise of reviving the economical landscape and part of making the population dream of the second economic miracles. Nonetheless, with much disappointment, people living with disabilities are forgotten in speeches and actions are not present to give relief or incentives !

Attitudes must change

Often, the idea is that disabled issues are the concerns of the Ministry of Social Security or non-governmental organisations. Reality is otherwise – the Social Security has limited powers; for example it cannot interfere in matters of public infrastructure and infrastructural accessibility for people living with disabilities by providing ramps, etc. and NGOs cannot make laws for parliament and they do not have unlimited resources! Inclusion initiatives are still few and far between promises and actions. Attitudes must change and we must realise that people are disabled by birth, through mishaps or in the most natural way that will affect us all – through ageing!

Thus, disability concerns us all: from individuals to local governments and municipal councils, as well as the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, companies and other stakeholders such as bus companies to cite a few.

Tackling disability is not just a CSR initiative

Shilpi Kapoor is the co-founder of BarrierBreak, a Mumbai-based company that provides technologies to assist People With Disabilities (PWDs). 75% of its workforce consists of people with disabilities with various kinds of impairments – physical, visual, auditory, cognitive, mental health to cite a few. She says that inclusion does not begin or end with hiring 10-15 PWDs and making ramps or adding disabled-friendly washrooms for them. She further stresses that tackling disability is not just a CSR initiative that companies can pride themselves upon to look good. “Inclusion will happen only when it is a part of the company’s policies and hiring strategy and is not just included as an afterthought. It has to start from choosing an office premise that is accessible to providing the assistive technology to help them have equal access to perform their day-to-day jobs,” she says.

Charity begins at home. District and municipal councils should review their criteria for allocating building permits to businesses and public buildings to be accessible to the disabled. Moreover, with hawkers removed from the streets and footpaths, municipal councils should ensure that the footpaths become accessible to the disabled and that shopkeepers do not in their turn use public infrastructure as food and goods display!

Resources of district councils

Conversely, it is inexcusable to find district councils wasting their resources to provide transportation for the elderly and elderly organisations for outings when transportation is already free. Would it not have been better if municipal councils and district councils invested in converting bus-stops to bus-shelters accessible to all where people would have been protected from scorching sun or stormy weathers and having a bench for the elderly aching bodies while waiting for their already free public transportation?

Still on the subject of transportation, Ann Frye, international specialist on the transport needs of disabled and older people, in Disabled and Older Persons and Sustainable Urban Mobility, provides a good insight on working examples on how urban development can be sustainable and accessible for the disabled and elderly. She points out that the SBS Transit in Singapore have, in over half its fleet, low floor wheelchair accessible buses; targeting routes passing through disability centres will be extended. In lesser-developed countries such as Mexico, the infrastructure has changed through simple low-cost features like raised boarding platforms or ramps to provide accessibility to high-floor buses. In Bulgaria, the local authority has worked with the National Association of Blind People to install audible real-time information points at public transport and in Russia, 600 bus stops have been modified with features to help visually impaired people. The National Transport Corporation is availing of 100 semi-low floor buses gradually. Why not up-scale the project to have low-floor buses with appropriate equipment to be inclusive of people with travelling mobility?

Accessibility does not limit itself to transportation implications. It goes well beyond: Education, Employment and Social actions.

Is it still imaginable that a father, working as layman and running his household on meagre earnings, has to quit his job to accompany his brilliantly successful child, Ahnas Careem, 11 years and disabled, admitted to Royal College Port Louis, to school just because his child cannot have a means of transport to drive him to school and back? How to better structure the Training and Employment of Disabled Persons Board or the employment office to make them more functional? What of the Lovebridge project or Ministers or people heading NGOs most of the time involving in mediatised ‘glamorous’ support of disabled people who have achieved, when an awful lot are still struggling? The ‘Centre de Ressource’ for disabled is recent and lacking in terms of resources and infrastructure; should activists criticise the centre by asking to be assisted people or join hands to start somewhere to empower the centre?

From conception till realisation of the Smart Cities, State and Non-State actors should ensure that:
1. The employment office and the TEDPB are revamped and properly equipped to ensure that disabled are employed in the private businesses operating there; from labourers, attendants, and housekeepers to the topmost managerial positions.

2. CSR, Banks and Lovebridge encourage inclusion and empowerment of disabled as opposed to assistance not only in terms of money, but also in terms of, for example: support a disabled child or support the child of a disabled person, infrastructure, employment, etc. Or better still, Government should inject the funds to infrastructural projects for accessibility. This creates employment and boosts small food businesses and in the long term provides for tangible and lasting actions.

3. When speaking of Smart Cities, for every business, every government department, and for many families, more accessible devices, applications and services will benefit both internally and externally. This is not simply a matter of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) but an economic and moral obligation to use technology to build an inclusive society.
Often, negative criticism, or reducing people with disabilities to assisted people weakens the effort of those struggling for a better living of the most vulnerable. Mauritius is signatory to conventions for the disabled; motivated people to join hands for the disabled are not lacking in the country and in a globalised village, resources and expertise are at arms’ reach. Let us not keep the term ‘inclusive society’ only a slogan. Let’s start somewhere; why not by making smart cities smartly accessible?