Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) recently published and released the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India. These guidelines are an outcome of tedious methodologies and engagements of synergized team works led by experts from IIT Roorkee in coordination with teams from NIUA and CPWD from MoHUA. Conceptualized in the Indian context with an aim to shift focus from Barrier Free Approach to Universal Design Approach, these guidelines intend to bring the narrative of accessibility and universal design to every sector and every element of the built environment. Diverse needs concerning the diverse range of Human populations in built environments acknowledging age, gender, disabilities, and other social contexts are mapped into these guidelines. Professor Gaurav Raheja, Department of Architecture & Planning, IIT-Roorkee has been the principal investigator and consultant of the project supported by his project team along with teams from NIUA and CPWD.
These guidelines aim to sensitize, guide, and facilitate the approach towards implementing accessibility in all facets of the built environment and beyond. It intends to build a focus towards the creation of inclusive environments for all through responding to the wide-ranging accessibility needs of persons with disabilities, the elderly, women, children, and all others through the universal design approach.
Prof. Gaurav Raheja of IIT Roorkee, the principal investigator, and consultant of the project says, “These new guidelines are a step towards a progressive and an inclusive approach to build environments and sustainable urban futures of India. It anchors the idea of keeping human diversity including persons with disabilities and their needs at the centre of all developments of built environments, thereby ensuring that built infrastructure progressively accommodates human rights of inclusion irrespective of age, gender, abilities or other limitations of lifespan. The guidelines have been designed for a diverse range of audience to enhance their reach to increase awareness and eventually a sustained implementation across all sectors involving all possible stakeholders.
The key objectives of these guidelines are:
1. To sensitize diverse stakeholders regarding various accessibility needs and provisions for diverse population groups in the built environment
2. To introduce and orient universal design perspectives to all stakeholders for creating inclusive built environments for all
3. To recommend specific built environment elements along with their accessibility attributes
4. To guide accessibility assessment and implementation in built environments
Prof. Ajit Kumar Chaturvedi, Director, IIT Roorkee said, “These guidelines mark an important milestone to steer inclusion and accessibility in India’s urban landscape. The new guidelines will help develop infrastructure in the country with an orientation of social inclusion. I am delighted at the key role played by IIT Roorkee in this national endeavour.”
These guidelines orient a perspective towards a holistic approach to creating universal accessibility in our built environments including housing, education, transportation, healthcare, tourism, public spaces, etc. Government departments, development authorities, Municipal bodies, Private sectors, NGOs, Corporates amongst all others engaged in the built environment process shall require to follow these guidelines. It is important that therefore various stakeholders ranging from architects and planners to engineers and service providers seamlessly integrate universal accessibility in their SOPs for managing or creating built environments. These guidelines also intend to impart knowledge and sensitisation to budding architects, planners, designers, and engineers in various institutions to create inclusive built environment professionals as well.