The steps to Dasharath Municipality in this recent photo where differently-abled persons are moving with a great difficulty.
BAITADI, Aug 18: Unlike her colleagues, Laxmi Bista always feels nervous while on her way to the office. She is a differently-abled person and the steps to the building are not disabled friendly. The non gazetted officer at Dasharathchand Municipality however has no choice but to use the steep steps everyday.
“I have nearly fallen from here several times. Luck favored me as I have not met with an accident so far,” said Bista pointing toward the way to her office. “But luck does not favor you all the time,” she lamented.
Bista lost the balance of her legs due to some illness while she was still a teenager. Since then, she has faced multiple hardships in the normal course of her life.
“My legs do not function properly. I move with the support of clutches. And clutches are not reliable every time,” she said.
Dozens of service seekers visit the office everyday. Some of them, who are physically challenged too, find it equally difficult as Bista finds it. But they have a choice as it is the municipality office which issues all the vital documents.
“I can very well understand the grievances of people like us. Basically the visually impaired and lame ones like me face difficulty when infrastructures are not disabled friendly,” Bista states.
The municipality office has a three-story building. And the mayor’s room is located at the topmost floor and the staircase is not comfortable. This troubles disabled people from visiting it. While normal people can go and meet the chief to get their work done, people with disability cannot do so.
“It is written in the constitution that the state treats everyone equally. Whether it be abled or disabled person, the facilities have to be accessible to all. But in reality, it is not so. For the disabled people, even government offices are not welcoming, let alone others,” Bista narrated.
The lack of disabled-friendly infrastructures in government offices and public places has greatly impacted the life of the differently-abled people. The National Federation of Disabled Nepal informed Republica that a very few people needing wheelchair actually have it.
There is no exact data on how many people require wheelchair and how many lack it. “However, many do not have it,” say Sudarshan Subedi, chairperson of the federation. “Despite efforts made by several organizations, even minimum comfort is not in the reach of disabled people.”
Wheelchair in fact is a ‘luxury’ for many as people even do not have clutches. According to Subedi, the scenario in rural area is very pathetic. “And when you don’t have even minimum support to carry on with life, you easily lag behind others. In developed countries, people like us do not have to depend so much on others and so others do not look down upon them,” he added.
Disabled-friendly infrastructure was the top-most demand of the federation during the first Constituent Assembly election and even during the later elections. They prioritized it in the local level elections as well. “However, our voice has not been addressed yet,” Subedi said.
According to Bista, the lack of disabled-friendly infrastructure has become costlier for women. They face much more hassles than men, she noted.
“Women menstruate, they get pregnant. And when there is lack of proper support for them in terms of physical infrastructure, they find it quite disheartening. It is harder for women than men,” she stated. “This country saw several changes in a short time, the plights of the disabled people remained the same,” she added.
Although it has become a norm for the department chiefs to occupy the room in the top floor, Bista said that the mayor has been requested to shift his office in the ground floor. “However, the request has not been addressed so far.
“If they had room at the ground floor, people could meet the chiefs. But generally they live at the top floor,” said Bista. “Here, we have been asking the mayor to shift his office to the ground floor so that all types of people could meet him and share their problems,” she added.
There is hardly any disabled friendly infrastructure in Baitadi. With the local government coming in place, disabled people had pinned high hopes on the government. “The government and NGOs must necessarily have such infrastructures. But such rules are limited just to papers,” Bista said.
The Physical Infrastructure and Communication Service Directive - 2069 has already been implemented at government and non-government organizations. However, such infrastructures have not been developed to comply with the directives. “There are no ramps in any building, any office,” Bista lamented.