Archaeological Survey of India makes monuments accessible for visitors with vision disabilities

Asia-Pacific, May 13 2014

NEW DELHI: In an effort to disseminate information to visitors with vision disabilities, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has put up signs in Braille, explaining the cultural and historical significance of the structures at the most-visited monuments in Delhi.

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

The move came after officials at the Delhi circle of ASI realized the need to reach out to people with disabilities and decided to put these signboards up.

“The project was the brainchild of Superintendent Archaeologist (Delhi) Vasant Kumar. He suggested that people who are blind visit Delhi’s monuments frequently, but have to rely on either people with sight to read out the information boards to them or hire tour guides, who often give them wrong information. So, it was decided that in addition to Hindi and English, we should have signboards in Braille language too. We got in touch with blind schools in the city and translated the text into Braille with their help. Now, visitors with vision disabilities can read the history of our heritage structures on the newly-installed signboards,” a senior ASI official said. Kumar was unavailable for comment.

To begin with, the ASI has put up the Braille signposts only at the 10 ticketed monuments, including the three World Heritage Sites – Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar – that are also among the most frequented places in the city, both by domestic as well as foreigner tourists. The other monuments to get the signs are Jantar Mantar, Old Fort, Safdarjung Tomb, Tughlaqabad Fort, Kotla Feroze Shah, Sultan Ghari’s tomb and Rahim Khan-e-Khana tomb.

The feedback ASI has got from the visitors ever since the Braille signs were put up two months ago has reportedly been very positive and encouraging. The organization is now planning to implement it in other structures too.

“People are happy; earlier, they could visit the monuments but not see anything. This move not only provides them information but also gives them a greater sense of involvement. We will now gradually extend these information boards to all monuments that witness a high footfall,” the official added.

Lauding the effort, INTACH Delhi convenor AGK Menon said the move is a “great effort” and was legally required. “As per the Disability Act, every public place needs to made accessible for people with disabilities. For example, the herbal garden in Rashtrapati Bhavan is one place that has signs in Braille for a long time. So, this is a good idea. We should increase it to more and more public places,” he said.

National Blind Youth Association (NBYA) general secretary Shobhit Yadav said the ASI’s move will “go miles” in helping children and adults with vision disabilities trying to understand the city’s history and culture.

“Special schools sometimes take their blind students out for educational excursions but not as much as normal schools, where children with eyesight study. This is mainly because the children have to rely on others for information. The information boards in Braille will be an important step towards their understanding and reading of national history,” Yadav explained.

Sound shows and historical documentaries, he suggested, could also prove extremely helpful for blind students and need to be conducted more often at these heritage sites. “That way, they can at least listen to the historical facts being laid out.”

Source: Indian Express

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