Conservative estimates put the population of persons with disabilities in India at 70-100 million. Yet, it is only a minuscule percentage of the population that has been seen in the mainstream of any aspect of life in the country; be it the workforce, education or anything else. Any study undertaken to determine the reason for this would point to one direction and that would be the lack of access.
A cursory study of history too would reveal that all great movements arose from the very lack of access to basic facilities, discrimination and the fight for one’s dignity and belief that all humans are equal and born free. The disability rights movement advocates equal access for people with disabilities to social, political, and economic life which includes not only physical access but access to the same tools, services, organisations and facilities which we all pay for.
Over the years, Accessibility
- Has come to occupy the most identifiable cause that has unified the global approach towards disability – across social, political and economic lives of people with disabilities.
- Has become the most fundamental cause that any person with disability identifies with, irrespective of the disability.
- Has become the fulcrum to the disability rights movement globally.
Accessibility not only means access to physical spaces but also means access to information, technology, transport, services, aids and appliances, etc. For example, only 0.05% of printed books are available in accessible formats to people with a print impairment! Only a handful of Indian websites are accessible to people with disabilities! And, most television programming is not accessible to people with hearing impairment in India! These are just a few examples.
Access, therefore, is an issue that cuts across disabilities and sectors and forms the very basis of empowerment of people with disabilities. A concept that is intrinsic to any kind of access is ‘Universal Design’, which means a design that is usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or situation. This could mean the built environment, technology, transport, and so on. Universal Design accommodates people with disabilities, older people, children, and others who are non-average in a way that is not stigmatising and benefits all users. The seven Principles that describe characteristics that make designs universally usable are:
- Equitable Use
- Flexibility in Use
- Simple and Intuitive Use
- Perceptible Information
- Tolerance for Error
- Low Physical Effort
- Size and Space for Approach and Use
Though this approach benefits older people and people with disabilities most of the time, Universal Design benefits every human being to some degree at some point of time. Universal Design has attained major ground in the developed nations, but in developing countries like India, this concept is yet to attain popularity. In fact, awareness on Universal Design is close to none and there have been very few attempts to educate architects, designers and others about this.
In order to spread awareness on Universal Design and to popularise this concept, NCPEDP, in association with Mphasis, instituted The NCPEDP - Mphasis Universal Design Awards in 2010. These Awards are given away every year to those who have been doing exemplary work towards the cause of accessibility and thus ensuring a life of equality and dignity for people with disabilities. As of now, the Awards are limited to work in India
The Awards cover accessibility in the following fields:
- Built Environment
- Information and Communication Technology
- Aids and Appliances
- Public Policy and Advocacy
The Awards are given under three categories:
CATEGORY A: PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES Awards in this category are given to people with disabilities who have created an impact in Accessibility and Universal Design in any of the areas such as built environment, transport infrastructure, service provision, information and communication technology (ICT), universally designed consumer products, mobility & independent living aids, or assistive technology in their personal/professional capacity.
The work that the person has done can be in policy framework, grass-root level implementation, design and development, access audits, or even the rights movement/advocacy.
Every year, Awards in this category are given out to 3 people across the country.
- Mr. Aneesh Karma, Bulandshahar, UP
Aneesh Karma designed a knee ankle foot orthosis (MASC-KAFO) to provide improved gait for people with knee-extensor weakness. This device allows peoples with weak knees to walk, run, climb stairs or ride bicycle.
- Mr. Nekram Upadhyay, New Delhi
Nekram Upadhyay developed an Innovative Assistive Device: MAK (May Ability Kit). This modular device is designed and tested to perform multiple activities for those who do not have had functions due to illness or injury
- Mr. Rajesh Ketkar, Vadodara, Gujarat
Rajesh Ketkar started English Literacy, Digital Literacy and Life SKills through Indian Sign Language (ISL) for the deaf and created accessible content on E-learning Centres.
- Mr. Aneesh Karma, Bulandshahar, UP
CATEGORY B: WORKING PROFESSIONALS Awards in this category are given to people who work for the cause of Accessibility and Universal Design in any of the areas such as built environment, transport infrastructure, service provision, information and communication technology (ICT), universally designed consumer products, mobility & independent living aids, or assistive technology.
She/he may be an employee of an education institute/NGO/corporate/ government body that has taken up the cause, or may be a consultant or freelancer who has devoted her/his time for the cause. Her/his individual contribution to the cause is a major reason for the success achieved by the organisation/firm/movement. She/he may also be an individual who is involved in the cause independent of any organisational support and has achieved significant success in the core objective of gaining accessibility for disabled people.
Awards in this category are given out to ensure that many dedicated people who have involved themselves in the cause get due recognition. This will not only help in sensitising the community, but will also encourage young minds to join the cause as a career option.
Every year, Awards in this category are given out to 4 people across the country.
- Mr. Rajni Kant Singh, LEPRA Society, Bihar Operation
Rajni represents Lepra and LEPRA Society in various National and International forums. He is also the State Coordinator of Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh States in India.
He has developed several innovative approaches for disabled people affected by Leprosy, Elephantiasis, Podoconiosis and Diabetes. One of these innovations is the ‘Mobile Foot Care unit’ aimed to deliver protective footwear close to the patient’s location.
- Mr. Prashant Gade, Inali Foundation, Khandwa, MP
Prashant quit his job and education pursue to design an affordable prosthetic arm; which he did within three years of experimenting. Going through hardships during the project innovation did not deter him and today nearly 1000 people in India are using the prosthetic arm.
- Mr. Kunaal Prasad, Brajma Intelligent Systems Private Limited, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Created XL Cinema application of which he is a Co-Founder and Tech Lead which breaks language and accessibility barrier for users. A specific feature in the application called “AD Mode” or “AD MOVIES” gives access to content with Audio Description (AD) to Visually Impaired.
Currently, they have successfully tested the proprietary glasses for non- intrusive subtitling system.These glasses can make subtitles vanish or appear on the movie screen.
- Ms. Ankita Gulati, Touch Vision, New Delhi
Ankita Gulati is the founder of TouchVision, a social enterprise incubated at IIT Delhi that involves working on the design and development of inclusive learning resources for visually impaired people. TouchVision aims at digital inclusion for the 253 million persons with visual impairment globally. The flagship product TouchVision multisensory kit enables affordable interactive access to diagrams for visually impaired in audio-tactile form.
- Mr. Rajni Kant Singh, LEPRA Society, Bihar Operation
CATEGORY C: COMPANIES/ORGANISATIONS Awards in this category are given to those companies or organisations who have taken up the cause of Accessibility and Universal Design in any of the areas such as built environment, transport infrastructure, service provision, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), universally designed consumer products, mobility & independent living aids, or assistive technology.
Companies/organisations that have implemented either/all of these within their organisations, which has led to them recruiting or serving people with disabilities and providing them equal opportunities to participate to the best of their abilities. These companies/organisations can be a role model for the rest of the society, and recognising their efforts and giving them the encouragement will help the cause to reach out to many more.
These can be any type of an education institute/NGO/corporate/government body - private sector, public sector, joint sector, SME or even proprietorship/partnership firms. The selection criteria will not only be for adopting accessibility policies, but also for implementing them at the workplace.
Every year, Awards in this category are given out to 5 companies/organisations across the country.
- Bleetech Innovations Private Limited, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Bleetech aims to break barriers between the deaf and hearing communities by focusing on human-centric design solutions. They have been able to grow from an idea to actually impacting the lives of 10,000+ hearing-impaired individuals across 15 States in India.
They developed a wearable band that connects with the users' Smartphone and converts sound signals to vibrations and visual notifications. They also curated BleeTV to access information and learning-based content in Indian Sign Language.
- SM Learning Skills Academy for Special Needs Private Limited, Gurgaon, Haryana
SM Learning Skills Academy for Special Needs Private Limited created CogniAble an online platform which is available remotely to non-experts for early screening and affordable behavioural intervention for Autism and associated neuro-developmental disorders.
A non-expert can use the screening service at 25% of the cost from any remote location by submitting a video using the internet. The video is automatically analyzed by our proprietary algorithms to make Autism screening predictions.
- National Institute of Open Schooling, Noida
NIOS has already developed videos in sign language version six subjects at the secondary level to provide educational access for deaf and hard-of-hearing learners and are now planning to make it available for the remaining subjects.
They have also developed an ISL Dictionary to facilitate communication and education fo the hearing impaired. 38 videos of about 2000 words and basic sentences have already been developed. The dictionary is available on NIOS portal.
- Big Bazaar - Future Retail, Mumbai, Maharashtra
The entire store design was revamped to incorporate Accessible Design principles with Access Trial Room, Washroom, Obstacle free passage and sensitised staff. The Project is internally code-named, 'Sab Ke Liye' which means, 'for everyone'.
They created 150 Accessible spaces across the country, conducted 100+ sessions and undertook massive sensitisation drive to train each and every member of the 30,000 Big Bazaar family. They are also piloting a service 'Special Assistance', where PwD can book shopping assistance or request a wheelchair or even assistance in reaching the store.
- Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions Private Limited, Bengaluru, Karnataka
They developed Multi-point Audio Switch (MPAS) for persons with visual impairment and set up as Tech4CSR chapter to develop more assistive solutions.
- Bleetech Innovations Private Limited, Mumbai, Maharashtra
NCPEDP – Mphasis Javed Abidi Public Policy Awards for Universal Design is a new category instituted in 2018 in memory of the Late Mr Javed Abidi, to recognize advocacy efforts to promote accessibility. This could be in the area of physical infrastructure, transport, ICT, products and services and will be awarded to one organisation and one individual doing exemplary work to create a level playing field for people with disabilities to access the same opportunities and rights as all other citizens of India!
Ms. Smitha Santhakumari Sadasivan, Disability Rights Activist
She attended South Asia Disability Dialogue at Columbia in 2015 and was part of the 9 point recommendation along with Late Mr Abidi and it was adopted by all the Election Commissioner of SAARC countries.
Facilitated the organisation of National Consultation on Accessible Elections in 2018 where Chief Electoral Officers of States, political parties, disability rights activists and organisations came together to discuss strategies to enhance accessibility and inclusion in the electoral process. She was also associated in evolving the Accessible Elections Framework 2018-2025. Due to her contribution and work; she was appointed by the Election Commission of India as an Accessibility Consultant.
Jury Award - Ministry of Information & Broadcasting: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 mandates that appropriate Governments must take measures to ensure that all contents available in audio, print and electronic media are in an accessible format and that persons with disabilities have access to electronic media by providing audio description, sign language interpretation and close captioning.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was one of the first Ministries to develop a policy to make television accessible to persons with hearing disabilities using sign language and closed captioning. They have also formulated a phased implementation for the same to come into effect from 15 August 2019 with no scope of further extension. This would require the broadcasters to start telecasting at least one programme with the accessibility protocol and increase the frequency with time to achieve the targets outlined in the Policy. To ensure that all provisions outlined in the Policy are implemented, the Ministry would also be conducting a periodical review.
The Ministry has already started work towards making television accessible—deaf commentators were LIVE on Doordarshan TV during the quarter-final and semi-final matches that India played in this year's World Cup. Doordarshan also telecasted the Swearing-in Ceremony of Prime Minister and others’ with sign language interpretation. For this path-breaking work the Ministry has been selected for a Special Jury Award for Universal Design.
Access symbolizes the true spirit of freedom as far as persons with disabilities are concerned. These Awards are therefore given away on 14th August, the eve of India’s Independence Day.
ABOUT THE PARTNERS
National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People
Registered as an independent trust in 1996, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) is a non-profit voluntary organisation working as an interface between Government, Industry, International Agencies and Voluntary Sector towards empowerment of persons with disabilities. In the past 23 years, NCPEDP has established itself as a leading cross-disability organisation which has later been strengthened by the formation of the National Disability Network (NDN) in 1999. Since then, NCPEDP has been successful in reaching people with disabilities across all states and union territories of the country and has successfully advocated several policy changes for empowerment of people with disabilities. For more information, visit www.ncpedp.org
Mphasis (BSE: 526299; NSE: MPHASIS) applies next-generation technology to help enterprises transform businesses globally. Customer centricity is foundational to Mphasis and is reflected in the Mphasis’ Front2Back™ Transformation approach. Front2Back™ uses the exponential power of cloud and cognitive to provide hyper-personalized (C=X2C2 TM=1) digital experience to clients and their end customers. Mphasis’ Service Transformation approach helps ‘shrink the core’ through the application of digital technologies across legacy environments within an enterprise, enabling businesses to stay ahead in a changing world. Mphasis’ core reference architectures and tools, speed and innovation with domain expertise and specialization are key to building strong relationships with marquee clients. For more information, visit: https://www.mphasis.com/