The All India Council for technical education (AICTE) has instructed engineering and other colleges affiliated to it to make their campuses a “barrier-free environment” for the disabled.
It has even issued a design manual, which identifies current problems in campuses and stipulates design changes, and has asked the institutes to use technology to evaluate and retrofit technological solutions to meet the objective. The target group that the recommended measures will help comprises six major categories: wheelchair users, people with limited walking abilities, the sightless and the partially sighted, the hearing impaired, people with difficulties in learning and those persons who are temporarily disabled due to accidents or an illness.
The manual has been prepared by Swayam Foundation and CBR Network. “The document does not cover all the requirements of disabled people in detail.
Most of the recommended measures have been tested in developed and developing countries, and while some have proven to be effective, the outcome of others is still unknown as local conditions, resources and needs must be taken into account while developing accessible environment,” said an official from AICTE. The officials also said that existing facilities that are in use but are not currently accessible, must be evaluated for accessibility.
To provide wheelchair-accessible classrooms with appropriate height of desk along with utilisation area for people with mobility problems, AICTE, through the manual, has stated that a minimum of two to five per cent of the seating in classrooms should be made accessible to accommodate students with limited mobility or persons using wheelchairs. Tables must be between 0.7 metre and 0.8 metre high, with at least 0.6 metres of knee clearance to accommodate students in wheelchairs, and door width should be minimum 0.90 metres for convenient entry for persons using wheelchair, it says.
To tackle the problem of poorly designed steps that hinder foot movement and steep staircases without handrails, it stipulates all steps in one flight should be uniform, and steps should be 15 to 18 cm high and not less than 28 cm deep. At least every 15 steps, landings should be provided to assist people who cannot manage long staircases. It calls for tactile marking/warning surface, where institutes need to make provision of tactile marking strips at top and beginning of stairs to orient people with visual disability. In case of wider stairs of width more than three metres, intermediate handrails will have to be provided.
Again for inaccessible building entrances due to difference between indoor and outdoor levels or lack of or improper design of ramps, the manual stipulates that landings must be provided for resting, manoeuvering and avoiding excessive speeds. It says landing must be provided at least every 10 metres and at every change in direction and at the top and bottom of ramps. The preferred slope of ramps in educational institutes is five per cent.
Stating that inadequate width and obstructed corridor area makes horizontal accessibility inconvenient, experts have suggested that the preferable width of corridors should be between 1.50 to 1.80 metres to allow easy passage of two wheelchairs without any obstruction. In extended length corridors of 50 metre or more, consideration should be given to the provision of a bench or other seating arrangement, located at intermediate points along the corridor for elderly staff and others with visual impairment and limited mobility, said experts.
Credits Bangalore Mirror