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Access hurdles of PWDs in Smart Cities decried: Javed Abidi

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The Centre is not serious about accessibility hurdles which have been a long standing concern for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in India. While there has been much hype on implementation of Information Technology in an array of sectors, there is a large divide between ‘Digital India’ and ‘Accessibility India’ campaigns launched by the Union Government, said Javed Abidi ,Global Chair, Disabled People’s International here on Monday. Speaking to mediapersons about Smart City Mission, Abidi said it fails to integrate disability as a key issue in its proposal. While there is no uniformity on incorporation of access for the disabled, the top 20 cities which have emerged victorious in the Smart City race, have completely neglected the role of digital inclusion for PWDs, he said.

“There are about 6000 Government websites in country and almost all cannot be accessed by a visually impaired person. It is an irony that Bharat Interface for Money (BHIM), which was launched to supplement cashless economy, is also inaccessible for the blind,’’ said Abidi who is scheduled to conduct a seminar to discuss about PWDs’ inclusion in Smart City Mission. Private firms, which have been hired as concessionaires to build Smart Cities, are extremely particular over inclusion of disabled-friendly components in projects which they have taken up in foreign countries. However, when it comes to India, the same companies ignore PWDs, rued Abidi.

A number of representations from disabled person forums has fallen on deaf ears of the Government. A lack of connect between Government policies/laws and technology developers has led to a situation in which the PWDs have been neglected in ambitious plans declared by the Centre. It is high time the Centre and State Governments work in tandem and fix accountability of the private sectors, Abidi added.

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