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The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) launched the Accessible India Campaign, known as the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan, as a nationwide campaign to achieve universal accessibility for the Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). The Prime Minister launched the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan on 3 December 2015, i.e. the International Day of People with Disabilities.
The Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan is in line with Article 9 of the ‘UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ to which India has been a signatory since 2007. The Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan campaign comes under Sections 44, 45 and 46 of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, which protects rights and equal opportunities and non-discrimination in transport to PwDs.
The DEPwD, through the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan, aims to develop an inclusive society in which equal access and opportunities are provided to PwDs for growth and development.
The following are the components of the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan:
Built Environment Accessibility
An accessible environment benefits everyone, including persons with disabilities. Under this campaign, measures are undertaken to eliminate barriers and obstacles to outdoor and indoor facilities, including medical facilities, schools, buildings, workplaces, footpaths, and obstacles blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic.
Transportation System Accessibility
Transportation is an essential component for independent living in society, and PwDs also rely on transportation facilities to travel from one place to another. The transportation facilities cover many areas, including buses, air travel, trains, and taxis.
Information and Communication Eco-System Accessibility
Access to information provides many opportunities for everyone in society. People use information in various forms to make decisions. Access to information and communication includes being able to read price tags, participate in an event, physically enter a hall, understand a train timetable, read a pamphlet with healthcare information, or view webpages.
The following are the objectives of the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan:
Enhancing the proportion of accessible government buildings – An accessible government building means where the PwDs have no barrier in entering and using its facilities. It covers the built environment, such as steps and ramps, entry gates, corridors, emergency exits, parking, outdoor and indoor facilities, including alarm systems, signages, lighting and toilets.
Enhancing proportion of accessible airports – An accessible airport means the PwDs have no barrier in entering, using its facilities, boarding and disembarking from aeroplanes.
Enhancing the proportion of accessible railway stations – An accessible railway station means the PwDs have no obstacles in entering, using its facilities, boarding and disembarking the trains.
Enhancing the proportion of accessible public transport – Public transport is accessible when the PwDs have equal opportunities to independently use private and public transport infrastructure.
Enhancing the proportion of accessible and usable websites and public documents – Accessible and usable websites and public records means converting public documents and all current websites to meet the relevant recognised accessibility standards.
Enhancing the pool of sign language interpreters – A sign language interpreter is a person who meets the professional standards of the official sign language.
Enhancing the proportion of daily captioning and sign-language interpretation of public television news programmes – Ensuring that the proportion of public television news programmes meets the agreed-upon standards of sign-language interpretation and daily captioning.
The DEPwD has created a portal and an Accessible India Campaign mobile app for crowdsourcing requests about any inaccessible place. Through the portal or mobile app, a person can take a video or picture of an inaccessible area and upload it to inform the government about such an unreachable public place like a hospital, school, government office etc.
The Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan portal will process the request for financial sanction, accessibility check and required changes to make the building fully accessible. The Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan portal and the mobile application seeks the participation of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and large companies in the accessibility drive for conducting accessibility checks and helping in the accessibility conversion of buildings, websites and transportation.
The following targets are set under the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan:
Initially, targets were set under the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan to be completed by 2016-207, but several targets were missed by one to three years. Thus, the government set March 2020 as the new deadline for completing the goals under this campaign. Since the government missed the target in 2020, the targets timeline has been further extended to 2022.