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Barrier-free Dilli Haat fails to provide a wheel chair

By Our Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI, AUG. 28. A disability rights activist from Chennai who had gone to attend the Onam celebrations at Dilli Haat on Friday evening was not able to enter its premises because he could not be provided a wheel-chair. And considering the fact that Dilli Haat is considered a "barrier-free environment'' model in the Capital, activists have expressed concern over the incident.

"I have heard so much about Dilli Haat and it being a disabled-friendly place and that is why I decided to go there. But I could not go in as those manning the place could not provide me a wheel-chair,'' said Rajiv of the Spastic Society of Tamil Nadu, who had to return disappointed as he could not enter the premises. Interestingly, the Delhi Chief Minister, Sheila Dikshit, was the chief guest at the Onam celebrations. "Senior officials told me not to make much noise about it,'' rued Rajiv.

Anuradha of Sabla, the disability wing of ActionAid, who accompanied Rajiv to Dilli Haat, said providing wheel-chairs to persons with disability so that they can move about freely in an area was the first principle of access.

Enquiries revealed that Delhi Tourism, which manages Dilli Haat, had acquired two wheel-chairs from a group called Samarthya, which has helped in conducting access audit of the place and in making it disabled-friendly.

"In fact, Delhi Tourism has started constructing disabled-friendly toilets inside Dilli Haat which is a very positive step,'' said Sanjeev Sachdeva of Samarthya, adding: "We have already made available the designs to them''.

As for the two wheel-chairs, it was learnt that one of them had broken some three months ago and Delhi Tourism was in fact looking for a replacement. "Even in the Garden of Five Senses, the only available wheel-chair is not functioning properly,'' said Sanjeev.

Activists point out that Dilli Haat being a model project for barrier-free environment, there was no question of laxity on the part of anyone.

"A model project has to remain a model project and all the good work done goes down the drain if some lacuna is detected somewhere,'' said a concerned activist, adding that "for a person with disability, a wheel-chair is like a part of his personal space. It is an insult to such people if they are not able to enter premises which are called disabled-friendly just because a wheel-chair is not available.''

And so while Delhi Tourism deserves all kudos for endeavouring to make some of the important landmarks in the Capital like Dilli Haat and the Garden of Five Senses disabled-friendly, it must ensure that accessibility is not taken for granted, they argue.

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