Conservative estimates put the population of persons with disabilities in India at 70-100 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.
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. The disability rights movement advocates equal access for people with disabilities 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.
A concept that is intrinsic to any kind of access is Universal Design which means a design that is usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of age, ability or situation. In India, the concept of accessibility and Universal Design is yet to gain popularity. And in order to create awareness and popularize the concept, NCPEDP with the support of Mphasis in 2010 instituted the Universal Design Awards.
Over the years, accessibility, universal design, and assistive technology
Accessibility not only means access to physical spaces but also means access to information, technology, transport, services, aids and appliances, etc. For instance, only 0.05% of printed books are available in accessible formats to people with visual impairments. Only a handful of Indian websites are accessible to people with disabilities. Most television programming or OTT platforms are not accessible to people with hearing impairments. The National Education Policy 2020 emphasizes the use of technology as a tool for education. The discourse around assistive technology and accessibility has gained momentum in past years, however, there’s a still a gap in terms of awareness and understanding of the assistive aids. The urban vs. rural divide is also one of the major barriers which needs to be addressed.
Access, therefore, is an issue that cuts across disabilities and sectors and forms the very basis of empowerment of people with disabilities. This could mean the built environment, technology, transport, and so on. Universal Design accommodates people with disabilities, older people, children, and others who are non-average in a way that is not stigmatizing and benefit all users. The seven Principles that describe characteristics making designs universally accessible are:
Though this approach benefits older people and people with disabilities most of the time, Universal Design benefits every human being to some degree at some point of time. Universal Design has attained major ground in the developed nations, but in developing countries like India, this concept is yet to attain popularity. In fact, awareness on Universal Design is close to none and there have been very few attempts to educate architects, designers, and others about this.
To spread awareness on Universal Design and to popularize this concept, NCPEDP, in association with Mphasis, instituted The NCPEDP – Mphasis Universal Design Awards. It was collaborated efforts from the two institutions which started the discourse around accessibility and universal design, because of which, the concept of universal design and accessibility found its place in the currently prevailing legislation on disability, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, which mandates all products, services, and infrastructure to be accessible. The 13 years of experience in universal design and significant achievements through advocacy efforts such as disability inclusive ICT guidelines, health guidelines, Bureau of Indian Standards etc. have also led to setting up of India’s first ever Assistive Technology Hub.
These Awards are given away every year to those who have been doing exemplary work towards the cause of accessibility and thus ensuring a life of equality and dignity for people with disabilities. However, these awards are limited to the work within India.
The Awards cover the following fields:
The work that the person has done can be in policy framework, grass-root level implementation, design and development, access audits, or even the rights movement/advocacy.
Awards in this category are given out to 3 people across the country.
She/he may be an employee of an educational institute/NGO/corporate/ government body that has taken up the cause, or may be a consultant or freelancer who has devoted her/his time for the cause. Her/his individual contribution to the cause is a major reason for the success achieved by the organisation/firm/movement. She/he may also be an individual who is involved in the cause independent of any organisational support and has achieved significant success in the core objective of gaining accessibility for disabled people.
Awards in this category are given out to ensure that many dedicated people who have involved themselves in the cause get due recognition. This will not only help in sensitising the community, but will also encourage young minds to join the cause as a career option.
Awards in this category are given out to 3 people across the country.
Companies/organisations that have implemented either/all of these within their organisations, which has led to them recruiting or serving people with disabilities and providing them equal opportunities to participate to the best of their abilities. These companies/organisations can be a role model for the rest of the society, and recognising their efforts and giving them the encouragement will help the cause to reach out to many more.
These can be any type of an educational institute/NGO/corporate/government body – private sector, public sector, joint sector, SME or even proprietorship/partnership firms. The selection criteria will not only be for adopting accessibility policies, but also for implementing them at the workplace.
Awards in this category are given out to 4 companies/organisations across the country.
Mphasis (BSE: 526299; NSE: MPHASIS) applies next-generation technology to help enterprises transform businesses globally. Customer centricity is foundational to Mphasis and is reflected in the Mphasis’ Front2Back ™ Transformation approach. Front2Back™ uses the exponential power of cloud and cognitive to provide hyper-personalized (C=X2C2 TM=1) digital experience to clients and their end customers. Mphasis’ Service Transformation approach helps ‘shrink the core’ through the application of digital technologies across legacy environments within an enterprise, enabling businesses to stay ahead in a changing world. Mphasis’ core reference architectures and tools, speed and innovation with domain expertise and specialization are key to building strong relationships with marquee clients.
|1||Release of Application Forms||12th June 2023|
|2||Closing of Application Forms||31st July 2023|
|3||Release of Shortlisted Applications (1st Round)||10th August 2023|
|4||Jury Meeting for Final Selection||18th August 2023|
|5||Declaration of Awardees||19th August 2023|
|6||Awards Ceremony||28th september 2023|