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Health ministry notifies Accessibility Standards for Healthcare to help persons with disabilities in healthcare facilities

Gireesh Babu, New Delhi
Saturday, May 13, 2023, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Union health ministry has notified the standards of public and private healthcare institutions to ensure accessibility of healthcare facilities and services to the persons with disabilities.

The ‘Accessibility Standards for Healthcare’ has been notified for the compliance by government and private hospitals and other healthcare institutions and centres, in tune with the Sections of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act, 2016, which mandates the Central government to formulate rules laying down standards of accessibility inter-alia for facilities and services provided to the public in urban and rural areas.

The Act also mandates the appropriate government and local authorities to take necessary measures to provide barrier-free access in all parts of government and private hospitals and other healthcare institutions and centres. The standards have been framed by a committee headed by Dr Anil Kumar Gaur, director of All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Mumbai.

The Standards aims at removing barriers including physical and architectural barriers, communication barriers, attitudinal barriers and social and economical barriers for people with disabilities. The healthcare providers including hospitals, nursing homes, private clinics, and others such as sub centres, primary health centres, community health centres, sub-district hospitals, district hospitals, first referral units, dispensaries, medical laboratories and diagnostic centres should be made accessible.

Providing universal access means the facilities are designed ensuring that the environment, facilities, services and products including the information and communication technology services and products can be used by everyone regardless of his ability or disability.

The Accessibility standard includes building structure guidelines such as parking, ramps, staircases, lifts, washrooms and drinking water facilities that are applicable to health care facilities, covered under the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021.

The standards include accessible arrival and departure zone, accessible reception, waiting area, accessible writing table or counter, accessible payment counter, accessible washrooms, patient examination room, changing room, diagnostic laboratory, laboratory toilet, dressing room, plaster room and minor procedure room, accessible pharmacy, accessible indoor healthcare including in maternity ward, among others. The Standards document also details the specifications for each of these facilities and explains it with pictures, so that the standards would be set with precision in each facility.

Medical equipment and furniture, including the examination tables and chairs, lifts for shirting persons with locomotor disability, gynaecological examination table, radiological diagnostic equipment, mammography equipment and chairs, densitometer and adjustable height stretcher, weighing scales, commodes and shower transfer benches, among others.

Standards for ophthalmology and optometry chairs and tables, dental chair, birthing chairs, infusion recliners, hospital beds, gurneys or wheeled stretchers, infusion pumps, rehabilitation equipment, and others are also specified in the document.

It also recommends training programmes for the staff for better delivery of prevention E, curative and rehabilitative medical care to persons with disabilities. The training can be conducted in the form of workshops in which active participation of the employees is useful. A feedback workshop for persons with disability visiting the healthcare facility will also be very useful, it says.

“Communication with persons with disabilities should be as effective as with others. It is more important in a healthcare facility, as a small mistake while communicating may lead to undesired or harmful change in management of his or her medical problem,” says the guideline.

It also lays down the standard of language used for persons with disabilities and words to be used while interacting with the persons, depending upon their disabilities.

As per the Census 2011, out of the 121 crore population, about 2.68crore persons in the country are persons with disabilities, which is 2.21 per cent of the total population. According to the National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, 2006, persons with disabilities need an environment that provides them equal opportunities, protection of their rights and full participation in society. India is signatory to many declarations, frameworks and others including UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD), which was made into force in 2008 and emphasises on and strengthens protection for persons with disabilities in relation to health and rehabilitation, it said.

“Persons with disabilities should not be excluded and denied services or otherwise treated differently because of the absence of auxiliary aids or appliances. They are required to visit the medical facilities more frequently than others as in addition to medical care, they also need certificates for different purposes including for getting disability related benefits and require repairs or replacement of assistive aids and appliances. Physical accessibility to doctor’s chambers, clinics and hospitals is essential in providing medical care to persons with disabilities,” said the document.

“Designing accessible healthcare environment requires taking care of engineering and architectural issues, aesthetics, industry standards, safety issues and cost along with the environmental issues. It must be ensured that the design of the healthcare facility provides appropriate visual conditions, good acoustics and noise control and easy dissemination of information,” it added. Care must also be taken to meet the healthcare accessibility requirements of persons with mental, psychological and other invisible disabilities.

“All the regulatory requirements of municipal corporation, state and centre must be met while creating accessible healthcare infrastructure,” it averred.


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