Roorkee: National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA) in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee, and support from Ministry of Housing and Urban affairs have successfully conducted public consultation meetings for revisions in guidelines and standards areas of universal accessibility in built environment in India. The consultation meetings were in the backdrop of ‘Building Accessible Safe Inclusive Indian Cities’ (BASIIC) program (supported by FCDO, UK government).
The meetings, were held with persons with disabilities, elderly and their caregivers on 22nd April, 2021 and women, children (With or without disabilities) and their caregivers on 24th April, 2021, on virtual platform. The broad objectives of the consultation were to 1. Understand the diverse needs of identified groups in different facets of independent life; 2. Understand the problems faced by them in the everyday life due to inaccessibility of urban infrastructure and services 3. Gain insights from their experience and take suggestions for improvement in the guidelines. The discussion was divided into housing/residential, healthcare, mobility, education, employment and recreation – five critical components of urban life with an overarching theme of assistive/smart technologies. The consultations had more than 40 participants from across the country on each day sharing their views and experiences.
Prof. Ajit K Chaturvedi, Director, IIT Roorkee said “In collaboration with NIUA, IIT Roorkee aims to foster the creation of accessible built environments with a human-centric approach. The workshops witnessed meaningful participation from diverse groups including persons with disabilities, the elderly, caregivers, women, and children. These sessions will lead to the development of Harmonised Guidelines for Universal Accessibility in Built Environments.”
Major concerns discussed in these consultations included: age- appropriate features in housing/apartment design; housing/ facilities for care-givers, safety of personal information, significance of mixed land-use development, anthropometrical mismatch in housing, maintenance of streets and public spaces, absence of ramps and use of slipper materials in flooring etc. Suggestions like: Planning age-friendly components in housing, improvement of information system in public transport, resting areas at regular intervals, senior citizen corners in neighbourhood parks, use of appropriate materials and careful design of play areas for children, improving access in market spaces, accessibility auditing frameworks for educational institutions, accessible family toilet and public buildings and easy communication systems, proper signage and facilities for child and nursing mothers in health care institutions were discussed. Improper Implementation, lack of sensitivity in society/practitioners and need for stringent monitoring mechanisms were identified as overlapping concerns in both the consultations.
Mr. Hitesh Vaidya, Director, NIUA said “A city is for everyone. It is important for us to be more cognizant of the needs of vulnerable population groups i.e. children, elderly, and persons with disabilities. One of the key elements of Inclusive planning is participatory approach. The consultations will not only act as an insightful tool to mainstream the inclusivity and universal accessibility, but will also provide inputs to develop strategies, to make future cities more accessible and inclusive.”
This consultation was led by Mr. Utsav Choudhary and Ms. Kanika Bansal from NIUA along with Dr. Gaurav Raheja, Professor from Dept. of Architecture & Planning, IIT Roorkee. The endeavour is part of an existing MoU between both institutions, aiming for devising strategies in making Indian cities more accessible, safe, and inclusive for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), elderly, women, and children among others. The activity is constantly supported guided by Ministry of Housing and Urban affairs. The insights from these consultations will support in suggesting appropriate revisions in existing Harmonised Guideline and space standards for persons with disabilities and elderly, from the lens of universal design and inclusive planning.
BASIIC program of NIUA, supported by UK Government,endeavours to promulgate aspects of “Accessibility, Safety, Inclusivity” in the Indian Smart Cities. Under the program, NIUA has setup the “Technical Assistance &Support Unit” to ensure that timely technical support and guidance can be extended to Indian cities on the tenets of accessibility, safety and inclusivity.