Gita Balakrishnan, a 55-year-old architect, researcher, and educator, undertook a remarkable solo expedition, covering 335 km from Chennai to Bengaluru in support of Universal Design and Accessibility for persons with disabilities.
This marked her fourth journey since its initiation in February 2022. In the final stretch approaching Bengaluru, Gita’s last 5 km lap took her from the Spastics Society of Karnataka, an NGO dedicated to those with developmental disabilities, to the serene Cubbon Park. The journey concluded with a symbolic walk from Cubbon Park to the Museum of Art and Photography (MAP), an accessible destination for people with disabilities, symbolizing unity and inclusivity among individuals with disabilities.
Gita emphasized that her daily walk, covering 17-21 km, is dedicated to the advocacy of universal design and accessibility. She expressed the purpose of raising awareness about the importance of creating inclusive environments for everyone. Gita underscored the prevailing inadequacy of environments and infrastructure for persons with disabilities and highlighted the initiative’s core objective: fostering a society where individuals with disabilities can lead independent lives, access spaces, and enjoy equal opportunities.
Gita said, “It’s crucial for designers and architects to recognize the absence of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach in creating buildings and spaces. We can initiate change by incorporating practical measures such as ramps beside stairways and ensuring doors are wide enough for wheelchair accessibility. As a community, we should actively work towards breaking down barriers related to age, class, and gender. There is a need for more extensive discussions on universal design at the curriculum level for architecture students and others to understand the importance of creating inclusive spaces.”