Young Voices members from Bangalore, India, have carried their campaign for accessible banking services one step further through press coverage in The Times of India, a major national print and online newspaper. Young Voices members had carried out an access audit of bank premises, cash point machines and bank policies and used the data to show that people with visual impairments were often denied bank accounts, could not access cash machines and could not enter some bank premises. Read the article.
The Indian state of Karnataka is home to approximately three million people with disabilities. Speaking on their behalf and for themselves, the Bangalore Young Voices group submitted a memorandum to the state minister for transport. It called for the state bus transport corporation to honour national laws and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by ensuring full access to public transport. This includes providing free or reduced price bus passes for people with disabilities as is done in many other Indian states. Finally, the Young Voices members demanded that the corporation fulfil its obligations under national law to ensure that 3 – 5% of all its jobs, as well as concessions in bus stations, are filled by people with disabilities.
A Young Voices Asia Regional Meet and Media Workshop was held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 3 – 6 August. During the workshop Young Voices members from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India and Philippines received hands-on training in film making and radio broadcasting from renowned documentary film makers and broadcasting experts. The event was given widespread coverage by the media in Sri Lanka and Young Voices members were interviewed by radio and TV channels including MTV Sri Lanka.
India’s new Right to Education Act, which guarantees free primary education to every child, must make all schools inclusive. These are the views of Young Voices member Girish V, who wrote an article for one of India’s largest newspapers, the Deccan Herald. He went on to urge the public and school administrators to ‘set the stage for empowerment of children with disability, who will become worthy contributors of the country’s economic development.’
Three members of Bangalore Young Voices have successfully opened bank accounts after previously being turned away or allowed only to open a joint account because of their visual impairments. Members challenged the banks independently and as a group for both themselves and other disabled people.
Three Young Voices members in Bangalore met with the Deputy Secretary of the Karnataka Public Service Commission in response to their call for fairer allocation of state civil service jobs. 3–5% of state jobs are officially reserved for people with disabilities, but this goal was not met this year.
As a result of advocacy by Young Voices, the JP Nagar branch of the Indian Overseas Bank in Bangalore has agreed to adapt its premises. This will enable disabled account holders to conduct their business without any difficulties.
Several polling stations in the recent elections Bangalore municipal corporation elections were adapted to be used by people with disabilities thanks to a Young Voices campaign. This included adding Braille markings and ramps and training polling station staff.
Although disabled people in India need disability certificates to claim state benefits to which they are entitled, they can be hard to get. Young Voices visited a hospital in Jharkhand and interviewed everyone who came there for a certificate about their problems in getting one. Results were presented to medical authorities.
Although people with disabilities are entitled to vote, in practice there were barriers to full participation. Young Voices filed a petition to the high court of Jharkhand which resulted in the court directing the election commissioner to make the process accessible including providing ramps, Braille marking on voting materials and other assistance.