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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Capital’s post offices challenge for disabled

NEW DELHI: Suwarna Raj (31) must make the obligatory trip from her house in Shahdara toMandi House and back every few days. This is because the wheelchair-bound National Credit Fund for Women staffer is hard put to scale the steep flight of stairs that lead to the Shahdara'smain post office. 

Meanwhile, Shiv Kumar (26) must either request a friend to do his postal work or spend hours heaving himself up the stairs of Krishna Nagar post office. The employees there are too busy to help him. 

Suwarna and Shiv Kumar are among the thousands of disabled who do not have a post office accessible to them in northeast Delhi. Post offices are frequented by disabled, mostly for availing job applications and savings policies. 

After Suwarna sent several letters to the ministry of communication and information technology, she was told that a sum of Rs 2.4 lakh has been released to construct a ramp at Krishna Nagar post office. The ministry also wrote to Suwarna that Shahdara post office, being privately owned, cannot be made barrier-free. 

The Krishna Nagar post office ramp is yet to be constructed. When she moved to Delhi from Nagpur in 2008, Suwarna was shocked to see how inaccessible the capital is for persons with disability. 

Suwarna's husband Pradip Raj works for United Nations Department of Safety and Security. "I go to the post office regularly to get RTI forms. Many of my other friends with disabilities go to the post office for savings policies and job application forms. It's not always possible to travel to a general post office," Pradip said. 

Wheelchair user Shivani Gupta, who heads AccessAbility, says the first thing a post office should ensure is an accessible entrance. "The entrance has to be complemented with a ramp or a lift. At least one staffer should know sign language. Disabled should also be helped with filling forms," she said. 

Dr Satyendra Singh, professor of physiology at University College of Medical Sciences, had filed an RTI enquiry last year asking postal department about degrees of accessibility in various post offices. In reply, the south division of India Post said that 65 of their 67 post offices are barrier-free. 

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