SCPD Court orders accessibility upgrade for VVIP Guest House
DIMAPUR — The Court of State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) has directed the state government to ensure that the VVIP Guest House at Chümoukedima is barrier-free and accessible to all citizens.
The order comes after an inspection of the guest house on November 17, 2023, to verify whether accessibility facilities were being provided as mandated under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016 and the standards prescribed by the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021.
Following the joint inspection conducted by the SCPD team led by State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) Diethono Nakhro, along with the Commandant of 1 NAP Battalion, Aaron Patton, and engineers of Police Project, a series of recommendations aimed at enhancing accessibility standards in various areas of the building were made.
The state respondents, including the Home Commissioner, Director General of Police (DGP), and Chief Engineer of Police Project, have been given a three-month timeframe to execute the recommendations and furnish action taken report to the Court of SCPD by April 29, 2024.
The key recommendations put forth by the SCPD encompass a comprehensive approach to enhancing accessibility in and around the guest house building, including construction of a ramp with hand railings.
“Currently, ramp access into the building was found constructed at the back of the building which essentially means all persons with disabilities who use assistive aids, such as wheelchairs, can enter the building only through the back entrance which is highly discriminatory,” the SCPD stated.
The ramp should be vetted with the concerned authority to ensure that it complies with accessibility standards as per the guidelines for universal accessibility, which includes proper gradient, surface continuity, width, etc., it added.
Stating that not even a single accessible toilet was available in the entire building, the SCPD recommended that at least one accessible/priority toilet with all necessary fixtures such as grab bars, railings, washbasin at appropriate level, etc., must be made available at the ground floor/lobby area of the building.
The barriers (water stoppers) at the toilet doors must be done away with as this creates a big hindrance and difficulty not only for persons with disabilities but also for senior citizens with reduced mobility, and the front desk/reception area must be made accessible as per the standards prescribed under the guidelines, it added.
The SCPD recommended widening of all doorways to rooms such as the dining room, which serve as common areas, as well as widening of toilet doorways in the common areas so that they are easily accessible for all.
Among others, the SCPD also directed the government to consider converting at least one elevator as per the standards and specifications prescribed under the guidelines. Maintenance crew should be made available for maintenance of the lifts as it is a serious safety concern, it stated.
“Accessible signage and way-finding maps should be made available at strategic points, including raised or tactile letters, high contrast colours, and Braille or tactile symbols. Tactile guiding paths and colour contrast on staircases should be provided throughout the building. Signage should also be provided for evacuation plans and exit routes in case of emergencies,” the SCPD recommended.
Additionally, the SCPD observed that out of seven rooms including two VVIP suites that are available in the building, “Not even a single room was found accessible and barrier free.”
In this connection, it was recommended that at least one room or suite on each floor must be made fully accessible for persons with disabilities by installing all necessary facilities, which includes furnishings, fixtures such as accessible door handles, switch boards, faucets, hand railings, grab bars, shower seat and, or removing all barriers which may hamper free movement for a person with disability.
Further, the SCPD insisted that the standards as prescribed by the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021 must be followed and implemented strictly.
Given that the VVIP Guest House at Chümoukedima has not yet been officially handed over to the relevant department because the building is not yet complete, the SCPD directed that all necessary renovations and retrofitting be carried out to make the entire building barrier-free and accessible to all citizens, as mandated by the RPwD Act, prior to handover.