Accessibility is important for social inclusion so that people with disability feel that they can access all parts of the community. For me it means that I can meet different people, go to different places, and ask for help comfortably. Social inclusion makes me feel more valued in society and being able to travel accessibly is part of that.
I went on a holiday back to India recently and found that India is mixed when it comes to accessibility and social inclusion.
For a building to be accessible you have to be able to enter, exit and get around the building safely and independently. This means that buildings are fitted with ramps and lifts, signage is in braille and there is a landing zone after eighteen steps. Australia has these standards, which are part of the law, and it means that we as a nation are one of the more accessible countries for people with disability. The reason that I bring this up is that India has no regulations for building accessibility. This means there is irregularity in how people can access the building and it minimises independence as people require support more regularly.
Plane1There are many Indian style toilets which are not accessible but there are western style toilets as an option in most travel spots and public spaces. However, Indian people use water as a method of hygiene which means western style toilets are slippery and wet. Bathrooms are sometimes not accessible because there is often a level difference or there is a step and the flooring is often marble which means that the water makes it a hazard. The bathrooms are considered not accessible in my opinion as each bathroom has different ways of operating taps and showers etc. so you have to learn how to use them each time which can be a bit challenging for some of us.
India as a country does not view disability in a very accepting way but as a shame to the family. You are often pitied and offered sympathy. This can often be a hindrance to your self-esteem although this view is slowly changing through awareness about disabilities.
India has little or no social security for people with disabilities or the elderly which can be a bit difficult to live on comfortably with the basics of life. Indian people depend a lot on savings and family to care for each other and there is often stigma to asking for help so there is a fear that you are letting the family down .This stops people from approaching organisations for support.
However it's not all bad as India has accessible new metro trains and stations are accessible to with escalators and lifts.
India has a long way to go towards accessibility for people with disability. It will require systemic change and developing community attitudes to help foster independence and achieve accessibility and social inclusion. It will slowly happen over time and I encourage people to travel to see how accessible other countries are in comparision to our lucky country Australia.
This originally appeared as a blog post on My Choice Matters
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