In a bid to make the city’s infrastructure friendlier for the specially-abled, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has revamped Matoshree Meenatai Thakre Garden, popularly known as Shilpagram. BMC is set to provide an enhanced experience for the ‘Divyangs’ or differently-abled people with the unique and groundbreaking construction of Mumbai’s first-of-its-kind inclusive garden.
The garden will now feature a common play area for the elderly and differently abled, both with physical as well as neurological disabilities. Shilpagram has also been designed keeping in mind the requirements of the visually impaired, with signage in Braille.
This particular garden is located inside the popular recreational space Matoshree Meenatai Thakre Garden in the Jogeshwari neighbourhood of the commercial capital of the country. It was inaugurated by the suburban Guardian Minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha today, November 7.
I inaugurated city’s first truly Inclusive and recreational public space and play area for children, Matoshri Meenatai Thackeray Shilpagram garden, an initiative of NGO Project Mumbai at Andheri. It is already a popular destination for citizens which is now friendlier for the… pic.twitter.com/wXEGQx12EA— Mangal Prabhat Lodha (@MPLodha) November 7, 2023
In its effort to convert a pocket of the garden into an inclusive play area for the differently abled as well as able-bodied people, the civic body has joined hands with L&T’s Prayas Trust and NGO Project Mumbai through a public-private partnership (PPP). They have retrofitted the Shilpagram, a green landscape sprawling over 55,000 square metres, with accessible infrastructure, including railings, ramps, railings, braille signposts, a play zone with special flooring, and even swings for wheelchair users.
Living up to its name, the inclusive garden Shilpagram, or Crafts Village, also doubles up as a theme park and consists of several life-size sculpted representations of folk dancers, artisans, and musicians.
While speaking to The Indian Express, Assistant Municipal Commissioner Manish Valanju said, “This is an old garden, but now we have retrofitted it to make the landscape more inclusive for those who are differently abled as well.”
It is worth noting that this is not the first recreational space designed for the differently abled. Shishir Joshi of Project Mumbai said that Shilpagram Garden in the city will be the first to have a common playing area for all its visitors. He further informed that there are a couple of gardens in Mumbai near Byculla and Bandra that have separate play zones for the physically challenged.
Elaborating further, Joshi said, “At Shilpagram, we have developed a garden and a play zone that are inclusive of all, open to the differently abled, able-bodied, as well as the elderly. Prayas Trust President Meena Subrahmanyan and the K/E ward officials have been working closely with us to ensure the best possible facilities are provided to the visitors to the garden.”
Joshi further informed the media outlet, “In order to aid the mobility of visitors, especially wheelchair users, we have installed ramps as well as railings across the play zone. In the garden, we have installed regular swings besides swings for the differently abled. Besides this, we have put up instruction boards in braille and also provided parking space for them.”
In their effort to make the garden more convenient for wheelchair users, Joshi added that most playing areas are muddy or filled with pebbles, and that uneven ground can be difficult for wheelchairs. Therefore, a special type of flooring has been put up. He also added that it took over three months for land experts from L&T and his organisation to complete the project.