Kohima, 6 May (MTNews): To ensure equal access to public buildings for all citizens, the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD), Nagaland, Diethono Nakhro has issued critical directives following Accessibility Audit inspections.

Following Accessibility Audit inspections conducted at the Nagaland Legislative Assembly Complex, Kohima on 14 February 2024, and High Court Complex at Meriema, Kohima, on 19 March2024, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) Diethono Nakhro has issued Orders to both parties with a number of Recommendations.

The Nagaland Legislative Assembly Complex in Kohima and the High Court Complex at Meriema underwent thorough inspections on February 14 and March 19, 2024, respectively. In response, SCPD Nakhro has mandated both entities to comply with a series of recommendations within three months.

Underlining the urgency of the matter, the SCPD referenced the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021. These guidelines, established by the Central Government under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, demand comprehensive renovations and retrofitting to eliminate barriers in both government and private establishments.

Key recommendations outlined by the SCPD include:

Parking Space:
• Reserved parking spaces for persons with disabilities (PwDs) must be made available in the parking area.
• A drop-off/alighting point for PwDs must be designated near the main entrance.

• The ramp at the main public entrance needs an overhead roof for ease of access for PwDs.

• At least one accessible/priority toilet must be provided on all floors and blocks of the Complex.
• The accessible toilets and utilities must be constructed as per the specifications provided by the Guidelines, which include various heights for installation of washbasins, grab-bars, knee space, faucets, mirror, toilet accessories, type of door handles, door size, ramp gradient, emergency bell, etc.

• When a second lift is installed, the size must adhere to the specifications provided under the Guidelines so that persons using wheelchairs and other assistive aids and devices may utilize the service with ease.
• Service/Maintenance crew should be made available for maintenance of the lifts to ensure quick repairs in case of breakdowns or malfunctions.

• Accessible signages and way-finding maps should be available at strategic points, including raised or tactile letters, high contrast colors, and Braille or tactile symbols. Tactile guiding paths and color contrast on staircases should be provided throughout the building. Signage should also be provided for evacuation plans and exit routes in case of emergencies.

Assembly Hall:
• Some seats in the Assembly Hall, including Members’ seats, may be made disabled-friendly by installing seats that are mobile and can be shifted as needed.
• An accessible pathway must be created to make the Speaker’s Box accessible.
• Provisions must be made to make the gallery for media/visitors accessible by providing a ramp or installing a lift facility.
• Provisions must also be made to make the aisles leading to the respective seats for members in the House accessible. A chair lift may be considered in one of the aisles.

• An additional accessible reception counter may be added to the existing counter to serve the requirements of PwDs.

SCPD stressed the importance of staff training to sensitize them towards the needs of persons with disabilities and recommended annual accessibility audits and the formation of a dedicated committee for ongoing compliance.

Furthermore, SCPD proposed workshops for legislators on disability rights and the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, in collaboration with the Office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities. Additionally, a Committee is recommended to provide ongoing guidance on the identification, removal, and prevention of accessibility barriers in the NLA Complex.

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