Monday, August 12, 2013

AIIMS plans access to disabled, others silent

Times of India 12 Aug 2013

AIIMS plans access to disabled, others silent

NEW DELHI: When it comes to access for disabled people, Indian hospitals have a long way to go. In April 2013, the Medical Council of India wrote to all the medical colleges in the country asking them to submit compliance reports stating the degree to which the institutions are accessible to the disabled. 

They received responses from only 32 of over 300 colleges and only from AIIMS in Delhi. Medical College and Hospital at Sangli is the only one to send photographs as proof of accessibility. Almost all others promise to do better with their new buildings. 

The council has sent the set of responses to Satendra Singh, professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS), Delhi University, who had made a representation to the chief commissioner of PWD on the same issue. The letter from the MCI was prompted by this representation and he had also asked for "access audits" to be made a mandatory part of MCI's inspection before accreditation. 

The response from AIIMS said that the authorities are working on this issue."The engineering services department of AIIMS has already initiated action in this regard," said the report. An internal memo with the report shows that AIIMS had constituted a committee in April "to inspect the institute building with respect to access facilities of persons with disabilities... and thereafter shall give their specific recommendations." 

Several other institutions that have admitted to not being fully accessible say in their reports that they are getting there. "State PWD has agreed to provide toilets in the building for people using a wheelchair" at Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed College in Barpeta, Assam; "Government of Jharkhand, Ranchi is being requested to provide necessary budgetary provision to provide barrier-free access to persons of disability," said Patliputra Medical College, Dhanbad. Dr PDM Medical College in Amravati also said, "Procedure to fulfill requirements is being initiated." 

Most of the 32 colleges that have responded to the MCI claim to be accessible. But these claims ought to be verified, feels Singh. M S Ramaiah Medical College and Hospital, Bangalore said in its response, "We have an escalator in the college and the hospital which provides easy access to the building." 

Considering the only kind of disabled persons eligible for admission though reservation in medical colleges are "persons with lower limbs locomotive disabilities of 50% to 70%", escalators will act as barriers, added Singh. 

However, Medical College, Kolkata, doesn't think its disabled students "require any special access." Their response said, "There are about 21 physically disabled students studying MBBS Course in this college, at present, with 50%-70% having disability of lower limb. They are attending classes without any difficulty." 

Others on the list simply replied saying that there are no disabled students on their rolls. Many colleges said they are accessible to wheelchair users but don't have appropriate signage for the blind or hearing-impaired.

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