New Delhi: The Court of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities has directed the administration of All India Institute of Medical Sciences to ensure complete accessibility and all other necessary facilities for persons with disabilities in its entire campus.
In a recent order, the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Upma Srivastava, observed that while the AIIMS authorities had, in response to a complaint, indicated progress made in improving infrastructure in the premier health institute, there were still “areas which needed to be looked into”.
The order specifically mentioned the hostels, faculty department washrooms, board room, private ward 1, ultrasonography room and ATM outside the boys hostel which had accessibility issues.
The court also recommended “urgent action” under sections 40, 41 and 42 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 to ensure that the entire campus was made completely accessible.
The complaint in the matter was filed by disability rights activist Satendra Singh, who is also associate professor of physiology at University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, on April 18, 2018.
In its order, the Commissioner wrote that Singh, who was founder of Infinite Ability (a disability group) had filed a complaint regarding inaccessibility at AIIMS, “especially the B.B. Dixit Library, Centre for Medical Education and Technology and the toilets.”
In its reply, AIIMS submitted that its building infrastructure is over 70 years old and “with the hospital in operation, it becomes a daunting task” to convert the existing buildings into ones accessible to PwDs.
Still, the order said, “AIIMS had already initiated action for conducting fresh accessibility audit of OPD block, emergency block and Dr. R.P. Centre to begin with”. It added that when it comes to the B.B. Dixit Library, the access for students with disabilities was through the ground floor gate.
Also, while noting that “in phases certain areas were made accessible by modification of the existing building despite its constraints,” the order stated that “new buildings at AIIMs have been ensured accessibility”.
The court order also took on record Singh’s rejoinder of October 31, 2018 in which he submitted that it was appalling that AIIMS was terming ‘universal accessibility’ a ‘daunting task’. Singh had also contended that AIIMS was a premier institution with no dearth of money and that its reply had not explained if B.B. Dixit Library was accessible or not. Though it said the entrance was from the ground floor, it did not state that it had steps at the entrance and no lift.
In September 2019, when the case was heard again, AIIMS spoke about various facilities like a ramp, non-slippery floor, wheelchairs, wide doors and toilets that had been made available at the library. Also, it said, action was being taken to install a lift. In November 2019, a hospital representative submitted that the work for installation of the lift had been allotted and doors were broadened.
As Singh refuted the submissions, he stated that all OPDs and toilets in general wards were still inaccessible, and demanded that AIIMS provide photographs in support of its claims. The administration submitted the same in December 2019.
It stated that lift shaft structures at the library and the administrative block had been installed and that the work would be completed by April or May 2020. Also, it explained that the ramp on the second floor of Old Nurses Hostel (New Private Ward) building could not be made fit for X-ray and ultrasound facility due to constraints pertaining to the building structure. However, these facilities were also available nearby on floor level for wheelchair-bound or stretchered patients, the administration added.
The final hearing in the case took place through video-conferencing on August 21. However, no one from AIIMS was present for it.