How many of us have ever given even a fleeting thought to the inconvenience faced by disabled people in the public spaces in our country?

How many of us have seen them shopping or visiting theatres, cinema halls or places of worship, leave alone historical monuments?
Perhaps, none.

For the ‘differently abled’, it is not just disability that makes life tough but our own insensitive and smug attitude coupled with a pathetic support structure that deems it fit to label people with disabilities as ‘handicapped’ rather than help them lead lives on their own.

Places That Care
Places That Care [Illustration by Shinod AP]
Knowing how difficult it is for a physically challenged person to potter about a city which has been totally callous about their mobility needs, Samarthya, an NGO, working for the promotion of barrier-free environment for the disabled, has managed to convince the Archeological Survey of India to make our monuments accessible to the disabled.

Thanks to Samarthya’s effort, Delhi’s Safdarjung Tomb, built by Nawab Shujaud-Daula for his father Mirza Muquim Abul Mansur Khan, is all set to become the country’s first disabled friendly monument, says a report in the Hindu, newspaper.

After the renovation work, the tomb can boast of a number of facilities. The entrance to the tomb will have an aluminum plate on which will be written in braille, the historical background and outlay of the monument.

Visitors will also have smoother access to various parts of the monument, including facilities like the toilets. Renovation of the tomb will involve installation of wooden planks and ramps over the uneven stones which had made access difficult for wheelchair users. Other ideas include doing away with the slippery floor of the toilet, expanding door space and adding handle bars in toilets.

“This we hope would be a model experimentation and would soon be followed in phases for various other historical sites,” claims an ASI official. “We also propose to provide guided tours by trained guides for people with hearing disability.”

But that’s not all for Samarthya. They plan to undertake similar renovations in other sites and monuments. Such, small but sure steps could go a long way in the making of a barrier-free world.