Govt releases revised guidelines for Universal Accessibility


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Rights of PwDs

Mains level: Read the attached story

From the design plan to the implementation, various aspects of the built environment have been covered under the new guidelines for universal accessibility recently drafted by the Centre.

What is Universal Accessibility?

  • Universal Accessibility can be defined as the conditions for easy access.
  • It would allow any individual (even those whose mobility, communicative ability, or understanding is reduced) to access and enjoy a place, product, or service, and to do so freely and independently.

Why is universal accessibility important?

  • Universal design is so important because if a space is accessible, usable, and convenient for everyone regardless of age or ability, it’s inclusive for all.
  • An accessible school, library, community centre, govt office or park means everyone can participate fully in their community.

What are the new guidelines?

  • The Central Public Works Department (CPWD) released the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India 2021.
  • Drafted by a team of the IIT-Roorkee and the National Institute of Urban Affairs of the MoHUA, the revised guidelines aim to give a holistic approach.
  • Earlier, the guidelines were for creating a barrier-free environment, but now they are focusing on universal accessibility.

Key highlights

  • Ramps: The guidelines provide the gradient and length of ramps — for example, for a length of six metres, the gradient should be 1:12. The minimum clear width of a ramp should be 1,200 mm.
  • Beyond PwDs: While making public buildings and transport fully accessible for wheelchair users is covered in the guidelines, other users who may experience temporary problems have also been considered. For instance, a parent pushing a child’s pram while carrying groceries or other bags, and women wearing saris.
  • Women friendly: Built environment needs for accessibility for women should consider diverse age groups, diverse cultural contexts and diverse life situations in which women operate. Diverse forms of clothing (saris, salwar-kameez, etc.) and footwear (heels, kolhapuri chappals, etc.) require a certain orientations.
  • Accessibility symbols: The guidelines call for accessibility symbols for PwD, family-friendly facilities and transgender to be inclusively incorporated among the symbols for other user groups.
  • Targeted authorities: The guidelines are meant for State governments, government departments and the private sector, as well as for reference by architecture and planning institutes.

Policy measures for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs)

  • India is a signatory to the UN Convention the Right of Persons with Disabilities, which came into force in 2007.
  • The ‘Accessible India Campaign’ (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) was launched in 2015 to enable Persons with disabilities to gain universal access, equal opportunity for development.
  • The Union Minister for Social justice and Empowerment has also launched the “Sugamya Bharat App” to complain for ease accessibility for PwDs.
  • India has its dedicated the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which is the principal and comprehensive legislation concerning persons with disabilities.

Back2Basics: Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan

  • Accessible India Campaign or Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan is a program that is set to be launched to serve the differently-able community of the country.
  • The flagship program has been launched on 3 December 2015, the International Day of People with Disabilities.
  • The program comes with an index to measure the design of disabled-friendly buildings and human resource policies.
  • The initiative also in line with Article 9 of the (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) which India is a signatory since 2007.
  • The scheme also comes under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 for equal Opportunities and protection of rights which provides non-discrimination in Transport to Persons with Disabilities.


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