Feb 102013
 

india-flagOpen letter from 20 Disabilities Rights groups to the Indian Ministry of Commerce “seeking remedial action on the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in accessing public libraries in India.” Reposted from the CIS-India website. [CC-BY3.0]

We, the organizations representing persons with disabilities listed at the end of this document would like to bring to your attention for your urgent remedial action on the barriers faced by persons with disabilities in accessing public libraries in the country.

As you are aware, India has approximately 150 million persons with disabilities[1]who have the inalienable fundamental right to life as enshrined in the Constitution including the right to seek knowledge and education. Public libraries play a critical role in creating an enabling environment for citizens to gain knowledge, information and education. This is particularly true in the case of persons with disabilities who have limited access to purchase books through mainstream shops due to various barriers including lack of physical access to shops, lack of availability of books in accessible formats like Braille, etc. India has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and therefore India is required to “to take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities[2], “to develop, promulgate and  monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for  the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public[3]” and take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy access to libraries[4]

The recent copyright amendments enabling libraries to convert their collections into accessible formats free of cost for the benefit of persons with disabilities coupled with technological developments in the form of cost effective screen reading software have created an unprecedented opportunity to make libraries accessible to persons with visual impairment and dyslexia. Additionally increased clarity on standards for physical access also now enables libraries to be made physically accessible without expensive modifications to enable wheelchair users and those with limited mobility access the libraries.

We understand that the Ministry of Culture has constituted a high powered committee as part of the National Mission on Libraries to look into revamping the library system in the country. We urge that the issue relating to making public libraries accessible to persons with disabilities is taken up by the government on a fast track basis, a separate budget is allocated for this exercise and libraries are made accessible on a priority basis. Please find attached a brief note on the steps to be taken to make libraries accessible to persons with disabilities.

We recommend that regional consultations are conducted through which additional data can be gathered on regional/language/types of communication/availability of power and related issues. We also urge you take steps to extend library services to rural areas across the country. We are happy to assist the government in this initiative. Do let us know how we can contribute to this effort.

Thank you and best regards,

  1. Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy (www.inclusiveplanet.org.in)
    Rahul Cherian
    +91 98403 57991
    rahul.cherian@inclusiveplanet.org.in
  2. AccessAbility (www.accessability.co.in)
    Shivani Gupta+91 93102 45743
    shewany@gmail.com
  3. Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (www.xrcvc.org)
    Sam Taraporevala
    +91 99670 28769
    sam@xrcvc.org
  4. Saksham Charitable Trust (www.saksham.org)
    Dipendra Manocha
    +91 98180 94781
    dipendra.manocha@gmail.com
  5. National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled
    Murali Alathur
    +91 98687 68543
    nprd.in@gmail.com
  6. National Institute of Speech and Hearing (www.nish.ac.in)
    Samuel Mathew
    +91 99615 68443
    snm@nish.ac.in
  7. Centre for Internet and Society (www.cis-india.org)
    Nirmita Narasimhan
    +91 98458 68078
    nirmita@cis-india.org
  8. Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (www.iicpindia.org)
    Jeeja Ghosh
    +91 94330 45340
    jeeja.ankur@gmail.com
  9. National Centre for Autism (www.autism-india.org)
    Merry Barua
    +91 98102 25923
    merry.barua@gmail.com
  10. Ability Foundation (www.abilityfoundation.org)
    Janaki Pillai
    ability@abilityfoundation.org
  11. Nilesh Singit, Disability Rights Activist
    +9199205 58867
    contact@nileshsingit.org
  12. Andhjan Kalyan Trust (www.aktrust.org)
    Praful Vyas
    +9194282 61878
    aktrust.drj@gmail.com
  13. AccessIndia
    Harish Kotian
    hpkotian@rbi.org.in
  14. Blind Graduates Forum of India
    Harish Kotian
    hpkotian@rbi.org.in
  15. Tamilnadu Handicapped Federation Charitable Trust
    T.M.N Deepak
    +91 98406 46953
    deepaknathan@gmail.com
  16. Human Rights Law Network AP Unit
    M.A. Shakeel
    mashakeel2000@gmail.com
  17. Global Ability in Disability
    Sai Padma
    +91 9052627070
    saipadma@gmail.com
  18. Mitra Jyothi
    Madhu Singhal
    mj.tblibrary@gmail.com
  19. Vaishnavi Jayakumar, Human Rights Activist
    jayakumar.vaishnavi@gmail.com
  20. Swadhikaar
    Pavan Muntha
    pavanmuntha@gmail.com
  21. Samarthyam (www.samarthyam.org)
    Anjlee Agarwal
    +91 98105 58321
    samarthyaindia@yahoo.com

With inputs from:

  1. Stephen M. Shore, Ed.D.
    Assistant Professor of Special Education, Adelphi University
    International consultant, presenter, and author
    Person on the autism spectrum
    USA
  2. Tania Meinyczuk
    Director, Autistic Strategies Network
    Autistic Consultant
    South Africa
  3. Shellique Carby
    Self-Advocate
    South Africa
  4. Fazli Azeem
    South Asian Self-Advocate for the Autism Spectrum
    Fulbright Scholar @ MassArt Boston, USA
    www.fazliazeem.com

    Pakistan
  5. Michael Vestergaard Drejer
    IT Consultant
    Denmark