Collective Endeavors Towards Creating an Accessible Kathmandu Valley
Author: Krishna Gahatraj
First access audit campaign in Kathmandu aimed to promote accessibility as prerequisite for persons with disabilities.
National Federation of the Disabled-Nepal (NFDN), in partnership with CBM, kicked off its first access audit campaign in Kathmandu on 11th August, 2017 by directly participating the user communities having diverse abilities and technical experts jointly collaborating with concerned stakeholders.
Aiming to promote accessibility as prerequisite for persons with disabilities, it began its accessibility campaign formally by doing an access audit at Ratnapark - a renowned public park at the heart of Kathmandu district and Siddha Pokhari - a renowned historical pond at Bhaktapur district.
During the access audits, a number of physical barriers for people with disabilities were identified.
NFDN has made a formal Memorandum of Understanding with Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) as major government ally to jointly work for creating an accessible built environment in Kathmandu Valley. This is, in fact, one of the major components amongst in its series of work under three years long accessibility specific project entitling 'Accessibility for Inclusion' as part of post-earthquake recovery and reconstruction program. It is the first and ever done accessibility specific huge project in Nepal done in a partnership with CBM.
As part of its continuous series, a total of 150 public places including public parks, shopping malls, public bus stops, government schools, temples, government buildings, etc. will be audited based on the recently developed comprehensive access audit checklists and recommendations will be provided to the owners, management/operation head and Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur Metropolitan Cities of Kathmandu Valley. They have made their strong commitments to modify/correct these accordingly.
Since Nepal has been already the state party of CRPD, it has promulgated the national standard on accessibility as Accessible Physical Structure and Communication Service Directive for Persons with Disabilities in 2013. Hence, Nepal has a legal obligation to abide with and, therefore, the access audit checklists have been developed in compliance with it to ensure these in real practice.
The access audit has physically assessed the defined areas of the premises to appraise the extent of accessibility and propose the appropriate adjustment/modification with specified standards in accordance with approved accessibility standards and universal design principles. The access audit process involved questionnaire fill-up by a team of technical experts and disability specific requirements were suggested by user community which is intended to be of great help on improving accessibility in these places by near future.
Inaccessible obstacles were found while walking the pathway.
During the access audits, numbers of physical barriers are identified by the user community. Some of these are;
- Lack of/inappropriate placement of signage,
- Different kinds of barriers while walking on the pathway,
- Staircase, inappropriately placed ramps and standards,
- Small pathways,
- Absence of handrails,
- Inaccessible toilet and other WASH facilities.
All these findings will be will be presented in detail to the KMC and Bhaktapur Metropolitant City (BMC) where recommendations will also be made for their appropriate correction/modification.
The representatives of both KMC and BMC has strongly committed to improve the accessibility in those public places based on the recommendations provided by the access audit report.
In addition, both of these agencies' representatives assured that they will fix the accessibility as this is being a fundamental human rights of every individual to access the public places.
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