The accident of Sydney D'Souza, 43, who fell from the second floor of the Sanjay School building in Porvorim on August 30, 2023, was waiting to happen.
Sydney, a student with disabilities, allegedly fell off the building which, according to the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) Guruprasad R Pawaskar, was in a dilapidated condition.
On January 27, 2023, the SCPD had visited the vocational centre and higher secondary of Sanjay Centre for Special Education, at the Old SCERT building, near the Education Department in Porvorim.
During the visit, it was observed that the building was in a dilapidated condition. The SCPD feared the condition of the building could endanger the safety of the students with special needs enrolled at the centre.
Accordingly, taking suo motu cognisance, a notice dated 01/02/2023 was issued to the member secretary of Sanjay Centre for Special Education and the Directorate of Education, bringing to their notice the hazardous condition of the building.
Further, the SCPD vide its order dated 28/02/2023 had brought to the notice of the district collector (North) that the building in which Sanjay School was housed was not safe and strongly recommended it be shifted temporarily to the nearby cyclone shelter in Porvorim.
However, no action was initiated nor any precautionary measures were taken, and, as feared, the disastrous incident occurred on August 30, 2023, wherein Sydney fell off the railings from the second floor, suffering grave injuries.
The SCPD said the serious injuries suffered by the student due to the hazardous condition of the building serve as a stark reminder of the consequence of not acting upon the earlier recommendation of the Commission.
The SCPD strongly recommends urgent steps to vacate the building as expeditiously as possible, taking into consideration the seriousness of the situation and in view of the unfortunate incident.
The SCPD pointed out that the RPwD Act 2016 underscored the importance of reasonable accommodation and accessibility, and the current situation clearly falls short of these requirements.
Ensuring that the new building adheres to accessibility standards is not just a legal obligation but a moral duty towards persons with disabilities, the SCPD noted.