Advocacy & Lobbying

Arushi has been tireless in its crusade to provide equitable and safe access to persons with disabilities, to maximise their independence and to allow them to integrate with mainstream society. Our work has included spreading awareness of the needs of the disabled, forging strong partnerships that allow creation of disabled-friendly environments and lobbying to have the disabled counted as part of our society.

Creation of Barrier Free Environment

Arushi routinely works with hotels, restaurants, museum, places of archaeological interest, parks, shopping malls, banks, educational institutes, public utilities to make them accessible to the disabled. As early as in 1999, Arushi’s advocacy led to the opening of India’s first disabled-friendly bank when a branch of the Central Bank of India branch in Bhopal was made completely barrier-free with ramps and counters at low levels for wheelchair users.

Over the years, Arushi has worked relentlessly to make more and more public spaces barrier-free. Spread over 200 acres, Bhopal’s Rashtriya Manav Sangrahalaya has signages and information boards in Braille. Many other landmarks in the city like the Regional Museum of Natural History, the National Park, the State Museum, Bharat Bhavan and Bhopal Haat are all accessible public spaces with ramps, pathway and warning tiles, and information in Braille. Even the historical Gauhar Mahal, where alterations were initially met with resistance due to the sensitive nature of its legacy, is now completely accessible.

Our work continues beyond the boundaries of MP. Information and signage in the museum and gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, have also been transcribed into Braille by Arushi. We have also worked for making many national monuments accessible to people with disabilities, as described in the following section.

ASI Accessibility in Monuments

Arushi, working closely with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), has made several historical monuments accessible to the disabled. Arushi’s training in caring for tourists with disabilities is part of the essential training at the ASI and has won many national awards for us. Our work involves making information and signage available in Braille and laying of tactile pathway tiles to aid the visually impaired, building of ramps for wheelchair access and accessible toilets.

Our work does not end at making a monument barrier-free. For people with disabilities to be able to use these spaces, the people in-charge need to be sensitized too. Every year, for a week, Arushi trains the staff and the guides to sensitize them to the needs of tourists with disabilities, including wheelchair users and those with visual impairment. Volunteers of Arushi have conducted training and awareness programs at other historical sites in Madhya Pradesh – the Bhimbetka Caves, Bhojpur, Khajuraho and Mandu - to make these completely barrier-free too.

Aurangabad Bibi ka Makbara, Ajanta Ellora
Chhattisgarh The historic Laxman Temple, Sirpur
Jammu & Kashmir Martand, Sun Temple in Srinagar
Karnataka Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace in Bangalore, ASI’s Hampi circle
Madhya Pradesh Sanchi stupas, Bhimbetka Caves, Bhojpur Temple and all monuments of Mandu- Baaj Bahadur Palace, Jehaaz Mahal, Tomb of Hoshangshah and Hawa Mahal
Rajasthan Jaisalmer, Ranthambhor, Kalibangan, Chittorgarh and Kumbhalgarh forts
Uttar Pradesh Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort, Agra. Tomb of Lal Khan, Ramabhar Stupa, Man Mahal, The Parinirvana Temple, Kushrubagh, Lord Cornawallis Tomb, Prahaladpur Pillar, Chaukhandi Stupa, Dhamekh Stupa, Ashokan Pillar, Gulab Bari and Tomb of Shujaudaulah in Sarnath. In Lucknow, Residency Building, Bailly Guard Gate, Banqueting hall, Begum Kothi, Dr Fayrer's House, St. Mary Church and Cemetery

Disabled Friendly Toilets with UNICEF

Arushi, in association with UNICEF has come up with inclusive models of sanitation and developed designs for disabled-friendly and child-friendly toilet complexes. More than 30 disabled friendly toilets have been constructed in rural and urban government schools, anganwadis, households and at other visible locations as models for replication in eight districts of Madhya Pradesh.

Besides, both state and the district level sensitization awareness and capacity building programs for different stakeholders like architects, construction workers, officials from the departments of public works, public health, school education, women and child development and agencies involved in total sanitation campaign and disability issues. The issues have also been raised in conferences at nation and international level notable amongst them are a paper on Inclusive Models of Sanitations at 32nd WEDEC conference in Colombo, and a presentation at all India Prime minister’s conference New Delhi.

With Indian Railways

To provide equitable and safe access to persons with disabilities, to maximise their independence and to allow them to travel with dignity, Arushi with the help of the Bhopal Railway Division has made the Bhopal Railway Station and Habibganj Railway Station disabled-friendly, the first and only such stations in India.

Bhopal Railway Station has special pathway and warning tiles for persons with disabilities. Habibganj Railway Station has a designated parking place for wheelchair users who arrive on tri-cycles, warning blisters, boarding entry ramps, wheelchairs and disabled-friendly toilets. The Railway Time Table is available in Braille, as are the seat numbers in the ISO 9000 certified Hazrat Nizamuddin Express that runs between New Delhi and Bhopal.

As a part of its awareness campaign, Arushi has also been successful in collaborating with Indian Railways to have information about disability printed on railway reservation forms.

Access Audits for Accessible India

When Arushi started work in this domain, we understood that work was often done in silos and comprehensive plan or approach existed to tie all the effort together. People with disabilities faced tremendous challenges in living a full, independent life due to inaccessibility. For inclusive environment and for them to really be a part of the society, it was imperative to draw them out from homes and for that, one must have barrier free environments. Particularly for girls who can’t be away for home for more than a few hours without accessible toilets and enabling environments and most girls drop out after schools. The lack of education sets off a cycle that costs the disabled opportunities at every stage of their lives. Most efforts at inclusion stop at schools, which is a half measure. Until not just schools, but every public utility, mode of transport and government office is accessible to the disabled, they will not be an integral part of society

Access audits are the first step for creating a barrier free environment. Arushi audits buildings and public spaces for disabled friendly features like existence of ramps, their gradient, door dimensions etc. and then make recommendations. Arushi was empanelled as one of 18 agencies empanelled by the Government of India under the Accessible India Campaign launched by the prime minister in 2015. We have conducted access audit of 50 government buildings in Bhopal and 25 in Port Blair. Our recommendations for making them accessible are already being implemented. The High Court and MIT in Chennai, the AG Office at Gwalior and the IB training centre in Shivpuri have also been audited.


In a country where disability is still largely unrecognised and unidentified, any enumeration of the disabled remains an inexact science. And until the disabled can, if not stand, but at least be counted, no true welfare program can really be considered successful or effective.

Arushi created an awareness campaign for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the census of 2001, then again through brochures, posters, hoardings, TV and radio advertisements in 2011. This was in conjunction with the training of enumerators to equip them with skills and a questionnaire that would enable them to identify disability. With support from the State Directorate of Census and Gulzar Sa’ab who has written the messages and lent his voice to a documentary and several TV and radio spots on the issue, Arushi champions this cause.

तुम्हारा हक़ है,
तुम गिनती में आओ
जहाँ भी हो, जैसे भी हो,
नाम लिखाओ !

- गुलज़ार

Electoral Ballot in Braille

For more than a decade now, Arushi has been facilitating the participation of people with disabilities in elections by helping them exercise their right to vote. People with disabilities often face difficulty in reaching the polling booths. There are many other barriers in the entire process of casting votes. Volunteers from Arushi accompany them to the polling booths and train people who are blind or visually impaired to vote independently.

In 2008, Arushi introduced Braille in electronic voting machines. Bhopal, in a creditable first, is the only city in the country where all 1,150 polling booths in urban areas are Braille-enabled.