Conservative estimates put the population of persons with disability in India at 70 million. Yet, it is only a minuscule percentage of the population that has been seen in the mainstream of any aspect of life in the country; be it the workforce, education or anything else. Any study undertaken to determine the reason for this would point to one direction and that would be the lack of access; primarily in the built environment.
A cursory study of history too would reveal that all great movements arose from the very lack of access to basic facilities, discrimination and the fight for one’s dignity and belief that all humans are equal and born free – whether it was Rosa Parks who refused to bear the humiliation and indignity or the Father of our Nation who was thrown out of a train in Durban, South Africa and led us on the path to freedom. Today the disability rights movements advocates equal access for people with disability to social, political, and economic life which includes not only physical access but access to the same tools, services, organizations and facilities which we all pay for.
Over the years, Accessibility has come to occupy the most identifiable cause that has unified the global approach towards disability – across social, political and economic lives of disabled people.
It has become the most fundamental cause that any disabled person identifies with, irrespective of the disability. Accessibility has become the fulcrum to the disability rights movement globally.
NCPEDP, therefore, has instituted the Ronald L Mace Awards to be given away every year to those who have been doing exemplary work towards the cause of accessibility and barrier free environments and thus ensuring a life of equality and dignity for disabled people. We are confident that in time, these Awards will gain tremendous recognition and credibility in the disability sector and outside.
Ronald Lawrence Mace is regarded as the father of the concept of universal design. Afflicted by polio when he was 9 years of age, he became a wheel-chair user for the rest of his life. Refusing to let barriers get in his way, Ronald continued to strive for success, attending North Carolina State University and graduated in 1966 with a degree in architecture. After working for four years in conventional architecture he realized his calling in life. He then began working on “accessible architecture” that lead to the invention of “universal design concept”. Ronald’s concept of universal design was to design all products and buildings to be visually pleasing and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, ability, or situation. Ronald not only designed universally accessible buildings and products, but also developed America’s first accessible-building code. As a dedicated advocate for the disabled, Ronald’s work is also said to have been vital in the passage of federal legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with physical impairments. He also founded the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, the pioneering research and development centre in universal design. His passing away in 1998 was a great loss to the disability rights movements.
This award will be a tribute to this great visionary whose work has changed millions of lives. It will go a long way in continuing his good work and making his vision of a universally usable world a reality.
Over the last few years in India, accessibility has gained significant ground mainly through the rigorous pressure exerted by the disability movement in the implementation of The Persons with Disability Act 1995. Many individuals and institutions have taken up work on the issue of accessibility and have done a commendable job under demanding circumstances. With accessibility being such a core issue, we felt it was time to highlight these achievements among the general public not only to raise awareness but also to act as force stimulant in our goal of a barrier-free environment in India.
NCPEDP requests support:
- to reach out to the masses through effective media exploits that can generate massive awareness about the rights of disabled people. This would ensure a change in the mindset of people. Society at large still views disabled people through the prism of charity. The media support for the awards would ensure that every citizen participates in the movement that can deliver the rights that are due to disabled people so that they can live a dignified life.
- to generate the level of awareness about accessibility among non-disabled people to ensure that they are sensitized to the issue. This will go a long way in the integration of disabled people in mainstream society, which is again intricately dependent on how accessible the social & workplace environments become.
The award will have three categories:
Persons with disability – will be given to people with disability who have achieved significant success in accessibility/barrier-free issues in their personal/professional capacity. The person nominated should have done work that has positively impacted the lives disabled people. The work that the person has done can be either in policy framework or grass-root level implementation or even rights movements. Self nomination is not acceptable and nomination can only be done either by one or more of the people whose lives have been impacted by the nominated person’s action or by any NGO/institution who has overseen or been involved with such act/acts of the person. Every year this award will be given out to 3 people from across the country.
Working Professionals – will be given to people who work for the cause of accessibility and barrier-free environment for the upliftment of disabled people. He/she may be an employee of an NGO/corporate firm that has taken up the cause, or may be a consultant or freelancer who has devoted his/her time for the cause. His/her individual contribution to the cause is a major reason for the success achieved by the organization/firm/movement or can be an individual involved in the cause independent of any organizational support but has achieved significant success in the core objective of gaining accessibility for disabled people. Awards in this category will be given out to ensure that many dedicated people who have involved themselves in the cause get due recognition. This will not only help in sensitizing the rest of the non-disabled community, but will encourage young minds to join the cause as career option. Every year this award will be given out to 3 people from across the country.
Companies/organizations who have taken up the cause of accessibility – will be given to organizations which have adopted accessibility/ barrier-free policies and have implemented them within their organizations which has led to them recruiting people with disability and providing them equal opportunities to perform to the best of their abilities. These companies can be a role model for the rest of the corporate world, and recognizing their efforts and giving them the coverage will help the cause to reach out to many corporates. These can be any type of companies- private sector, public sector, joint sector, SME sector or even proprietorship/partnership firms. The selection criteria will not only be for adopting accessibility policies, but implementing them at their workplace. Every year this award will be given out to 4 organizations across the country.
Access to spaces & facilities symbolize the true spirit of freedom to persons with disabilities and these awards would therefore be given away on 14th August (the eve of Independence Day) every year.