Wah Taj! If Only Visually Impaired Could Experience Your Beauty

Wah Taj! If Only Visually Impaired Could Experience Your Beauty

My Report

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
Video Producer: Aastha Gulati

Recently, a group of four visually impaired people visited the Taj Mahal. As an escort to the group, I witnessed, first hand, the difficulties they faced in accessing monuments such as Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri Fort.

(Photo Courtesy: Rabinarayan)

We visited Taj Mahal in the first week of October. Once the security checks were cleared, we took a tour of the complex as well as Taj Museum. It took us almost three hours to complete the tour, of which I enjoyed each and every second, but could see the agony on the faces of my four friends very clearly.

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What About Braille Inscriptions?

A senior research fellow at JNU Basanta Behera said Braille inscriptions are hard to find in the complex. The only Braille inscription is in front of Taj Mahal but is made from a steel plate and thus, he couldn’t touch it due to the heat.

A Braille inscription made from a steel plate outside Taj Mahal Museum.
A Braille inscription made from a steel plate outside Taj Mahal Museum.
(Photo Courtesy: Rabinarayan)

He drew a parallel with the National Museum of Delhi, where Braille inscriptions are installed with audio explanations for each structure.

“Even National Museum has allotted a special guide for our assistance. It is unfortunate that a national heritage site like theTaj Mahal is lacking these basic facilities.”

Amit Kumar Mohanty, a professor of Political Science from Odisha, remarked that India has very few tourist spots designed for the differently abled. Given that Taj Mahal is the heart of India’s tourist economy, Mohanty thought it would be inclusive for all. However, after a complete tour of one of the seven wonders of the world, his perception changed.

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Prasanna Kumar Panda, a PhD scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, similarly articulated the problems he faced. He said that they couldn’t properly touch or feel much because of the barricading at different spots or even access an area properly due to the crowd.

Basanta Behera, Ananta Kumar Nayak, and Amit Kumar Mohanty pose in front of the Taj Mahal.
Basanta Behera, Ananta Kumar Nayak, and Amit Kumar Mohanty pose in front of the Taj Mahal.
(Photo Courtesy: Rabinarayan)
‘We cannot even touch the outer side of this monument. In the rush hours we cannot even stand anywhere around it. There should be government-appointed guide like in other Western countries, where special arrangements are made for accessibility.”

If everyone is charged the same entrance fee, why are some kept from experiencing the beauty of Taj?

How Inclusive is Policy-Making to Begin With?

Everyone agreed with Prasanna Kumar Panda saying that many historical landmarks exclude the differently abled.

“The ongoing tourism campaign in India totally excludes the visually challenged and the differently abled. Places should be made more accessible and the Ministry of Tourism should pay heed to this.”

He held up the example of Mughal Gardens, where a time has been designated for only differently abled people to visit, a measure Taj Mahal should adopt. There was also consensus on the unfortunate fact that the visually impaired are not adequately represented in the law-making process.

Ananta Kumar Nayak, a senior research fellow at JNU, aptly said,

“Why this is inaccessible is because there are no visually challenged lawmakers. We don’t have visually challenged bureaucrats. Due to these shortcomings and inadequate presence of visually challenged persons in the law-making process and the policy-making process, we are facing inaccessibility.”

As their escort, I could see the loopholes; it is disappointing that the visually impaired aren’t adequately represented during policy making.

There is no deliberation or proper discussion with them, hence many historical places remain inaccessible to them. 

There are wide-scale advertisements about our national heritage sites. There is an ‘Incredible India’ campaign to promote our monuments but our the policies are detached from the ground reality.

The vision of ‘New India’ should have a vision to include the visionless.

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(The author is a student of journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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