Hotels, restaurants to be audited for accessibility infra
The Delhi government and the municipal corporations have been ordered to carry out an audit at all hotels and restaurants in the capital to check how accessible they are to persons with disabilities. Besides infrastructure such as ramps and lifts, hotels and restaurants are also required to have special menus printed in large fonts and Braille.
The audit has been ordered by the Delhi state commissioner for persons with disabilities, a quasi-judicial body. HT has seen the order, which was issued on December 24.
Senior officials in the Delhi government and three municipal corporations have confirmed initiating the audit in the next few months in adherence to the order but they are yet to draw a timeline. In Delhi, there are more than 400 hotels and restaurants that are associated with the Federation of Hotels and Restaurants Association of India. Some of them are located in prominent shopping malls. Between June 2018 and October 2019, the association had written to all its members to ensure that all their facilities are accessible to persons with disabilities. It also mentioned about the special menus, read documents annexed with the order.
According to Delhi’s state commissioner for persons with disabilities T D Dhariyal, 38 hotels and restaurants in the city had responded to the association’s letters and sent copies of their response to the commissioner’s office by October 2019. Of that, seven shared a detailed response but some sent only a ‘limited reply’.
Dhariyal said facilities for persons with disabilities are mandatory because hotels and restaurants would come under the Harmonised Guidelines, issued by the union ministry of urban development and notified by the union ministry of social justice and empowerment and later incorporated in the Rights for Persons with Disabilities Rules enacted in 2017.
The compliance is mandatory within five years of the notification of the guidelines, which essentially means 2022. The state government and civic agencies have to ensure the compliance, said Dhariyal. He further said, “But, by March 24, 2019, the hotels and restaurants will have to file a detailed report on how they plan to do it.”
If the guidelines are not adhered to, the civic agencies are empowered to crack down during renewal of licenses of the hotels and restaurants, and the state governments can levy fines up to Rs 5 lakh, the order said.
Satender Singh, a doctor and disability rights activist based in Delhi, said:“Such audits are very important and they can help bring change.”
He said, “It is difficult to find hotels and restaurants that comply with rules pertaining to access beyond the entrance and outdoor infrastructure. It is very important to ensure that areas such as washrooms and dining rooms are 100% accessible for persons with disability. Special menus to help disabled individuals are rare in Delhi.”