YOUniversal Design Photo Contest ' 23

YOUniversal Design Photo Contest for students of building design. First Prize Prajwal Gowda, Special Mention: Komal Karale & Thanusha Reddy.

Find and share the link to this web-page posted on our SM pages. 




A poignant photograph captures a wheelchair user struggling to ascend a flight of stairs leading to a skywalk which helps people in crossing busy roads. The powerful image not only symbolizes the uphill battle individuals with mobility impairments face daily but also serves as a stark reminder of the pressing need for change.

The absence of proper ramps or elevators not only excludes individuals with wheelchairs but also affects parents with strollers, seniors with mobility challenges, and anyone with temporary injuries. Here, in the photograph, elevator is present but there’s absence of accessibility to lead to the elevator.  

Sidewalks and crosswalks are meant to ensure safe pedestrian movement, yet many still lack tactile paving, audible signals, and accessible curb cuts. These seemingly minor omissions can create immense difficulties for visually impaired individuals, making simple tasks like crossing the street a daunting experience. Here, we can also see the paving done is not tactile paving, but random skid proof tiles which will be a problem for visually challenged persons to access the stairway or the elevator, and even to get down the footpath.

The photograph capturing the struggle at a skywalk which is a poignant reminder that every individual should have the opportunity to use the skywalk. It's a call to action, urging us to dismantle the barriers that prevent inclusivity and create a world where accessibility is not the exception but the norm. It's a reminder that we must work collectively to ensure that everyone can navigate public spaces with dignity and ease.

In the photograph, the location is near Chandralayout and Suvarna Layout where the skywalk acts as a pedestrian access to connect both areas. The exact location of the skywalk is




Location- In front of The ark, NIBM, Pune

Photograph depicts a challenging urban scenario, illustrating a footpath situated on the right side of the image. The footpath, typically designed to offer safe and accessible passage for pedestrians, presents several obstacles that make navigation particularly difficult for disabled individuals. At the forefront of this issue are a series of bollards placed haphazardly along the footpath, and a perplexing arrangement of tactile tiles that further complicates the path's usability.

The bollards, originally intended for various purposes such as traffic control or aesthetic enhancement, create significant barriers for people with disabilities, especially those using mobility aids like wheelchairs or walkers. Their erratic placement disrupts the smooth flow of the footpath, forcing individuals to constantly change direction or manoeuvre around them. This inconsistency can lead to frustration and potential accidents for disabled pedestrians trying to navigate through the area.

 Adding to the complexity is the confusing layout of tactile tiles on the footpath. Tactile tiles are textured paving surfaces designed to assist visually impaired individuals by providing tactile cues that indicate the path's direction and potential hazards. However, in this particular image, these tiles seem to be laid without a clear and logical pattern. This inconsistency can confuse individuals who rely on tactile feedback to guide their movements, making it challenging for them to maintain a steady and safe path.

In essence, this photograph highlights the urgent need for improved urban planning and infrastructure development with a focus on accessibility. To ensure that public spaces are truly inclusive, it's essential to consider the needs of disabled individuals when designing footpaths and installing elements like bollards and tactile tiles. By prioritizing clear and thoughtful design, cities can create environments that are welcoming and safe for everyone, regardless of their physical abilities, ultimately fostering a more inclusive and equitable society.




Do We Prioritize Convenience Over Accessibility?

In the of metropolitan cities India's busy cities, it's common to come across problems on the pathways. Imagine walking down a street and suddenly having to stop because there's a parking ramp or a damaged footpath in your way. These ramps make it easier for cars to park, but they also make it harder for people with disabilities, elderly people, and parents with young kids to use the footpath.

Debra Ruh once said that “Accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential”. It's not just about making things easier; it's about giving everyone a chance. Now, when we look at the photo, we can see a problem, there’s a big step, with no railing to keep people safe. For someone who can't see well, this is really dangerous. They could easily trip and fall. This picture is from Aces Layout in Bangalore. There's a five-story building that blocks the footpath, making it even harder for people to get through. The gap between the footpath and the parking ramp is only 300mm, much less than it should be. Also, the ramp isn't flat, which makes it even more risky. This is a busy place where people are usually too busy looking at their phones to notice the struggles of someone with a disability. So, we need to ask ourselves if making parking easier is more important than keeping our footpaths safe.

Honestly, I never realized that the streets I walk on every day had such a big accessibility problem until I signed up for the competition thank you for the opportunity, Ekansh Trust.

To make things better, we need to do more. We should teach people about accessibility through campaigns that raise awareness. This way, we can make our streets better for everyone."


Ar. Abhishek Ray and Nilesh Singit have been part of the EKansh Trust family from the very beginning, when they collaborated with Anita Iyer Narayan in giving shape to her idea for the first contest in India by EKansh Trust in Barrier Free Architectural Design in 2009. We thank them for their inputs. 

Ar. Abhishek Ray is architect passionate about design with an eye for detail, he brings his own perspective to the table for each of our contests. Here's what he has to say: 

The context of my selection is rooted in the idea of accessibility as a codal requirement. We have come a long way from empathy being the start point of action. While empathy is one of the ways of initiating action as practitioners, we need to enforce accessibility as a mandatory code in our designs for new India. This codal requirement should pervade every envelope of building design and habitability of spaces. This enforcement is, in many ways, a method to normalise the inclusion of people with special needs and disbailties in our environment.  Signs, tactile pathways, and ramps are tools to include people with disabilties in everyday life. The more we include them, the more we know them as equal citizenry in our country. Their rights to live in equity will then be beyond the definition of inclusion. 

Rtn Nilesh Singit is a tireless advocate and activist for accessibility and rights of PwD in India. He brings an insider's perspective to the issues faced by PwD, and here's what he has to say about the winning entries.

Prajwal Gowda: “Photograph captures a wheelchair user struggling to ascend a flight of stairs leading to a skywalk which helps people in crossing busy roads.” This is the sad story of every city town in India. This photo could be anywhere in India.

Komal Karale: An example of aesthics taking precedence. No one bothers if what looks good is even remotely useable. Everytime a cavalcade of dignitary both Indian or foreign pass through a part of the town/city beauty is amped up, cleaned up. Accessible? Who cares, as long as it looks great.

Thanusha Reddy: Traversing the roads for the disabled is dangerous. Thanusha gives a detailed account showing that accessibility lies in detail, any minor discrepancy can affect a Person with a Disability. Also shows how paths are dug up in the name of repairs.

Anita Iyer Narayan is the Founder & Managing Trustee of EKansh Trust and an experienced Access Auditor pushing for inclusion for well over 15 years - personally and via her NGO. This contest is one of her many efforts via her NGO. Here's her message:

I take the liberty of a rather long message in the perpetual hope of sensitizing youngsters who will inherit and shape the future. 

As an Access Auditor who has conceptualized and floated this contest, what affects me most is that while wheelchairs and ramps justifiably seem to be the main focus of design when we mention accessibility for People with Disabilities, the gradient, material used and location are often not taken into consideration. There are 21 disabilities recognized by the Government of India. Many aspects related to these disabilities impact the way built spaces are experienced.   There is a LOT MORE to accessibility than ramps. I had mentioned this in the poster too. 

Professionals in this field must see themselves as extremely important stakeholders in the entire story of building design and understand how they work impacts different people, their quality of life and livelihoods. 

I request professors of built space design to please update themselves on the current trends in Universal Design, and ensure that their students too incorporate these in their work. Accessibility is not a rocket science once empathy is achieved. For this, it is necessary to observe and interact with Persons with Disabilities on a regular basis, and take their inputs into consideration. People with Disabilities also come from varying socio economic strata, cultures, etc. and sometimes, with specific needs. It is good to have a curious mind in order to provide practical solutions. 

There were many good entries that didn't make it to the shortlist. We will share them on our SM pages with due credit when we get the opportunity. All in all, I am happy with the entries but can detect in many cases a distinct disinterest in the subject, as if it is not as important as aesthetics or sustainability. We must remember that more than 15% of our population has one disability or the other. And senior citizens are a big part of our society now. Universal design ensures that most people are comfortable with what is designed and constructed. 

I believe that YOU can make a difference - and I want you to believe and know that, too. I hope you will continue on this journey to a more equitable and inclusive India. Thank you for your interest. 

"Exclusive is passé, Inclusive will always be in vogue" - Anita Iyer Narayan

Ar. Chetan Sodaye is a brilliant young Urban Designer and has been an avid observer of our work for over a decade. We roped him in to select the best entries to shortlist for this contest.

Maryam and Evanthika from NASA have been most helpful in ensuring that we reached students from across the country. Our Architecture Professor friends in various colleges too have encouraged their students to take part.

We are grateful to each person who has taken the time and effort to ensure that this contest is a resounding success. 


... Anita Iyer Narayan, for EKansh Trust. 


The joy of playing is a universal human experience, and it's equally important for disabled individuals to have access to play and recreation. Here, we explore the significance of play for people with disabilities and how it can be facilitated to enhance their quality of life.

Adaptive and inclusive play equipment and activities are essential to ensure that individuals with disabilities can engage fully in play. 

The joy of playing for disabled people is a vital aspect of their lives, contributing to physical, emotional, and social well-being. Creating inclusive and adaptive play opportunities is crucial to ensure that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can experience the many benefits of play and enjoy a fulfilling life.

Such Public Spaces add more colours to the Life of disabled peoples.

...Pranav Hatim

Location: Old busstand, dharapuram road, Tirupur 

Amidst the bustling cityscape, where pedestrians hurry past, one individual stands out - a disabled homeless man, who cannot walk due

to a tragic accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. H e sits at the edge of the footpath, his means of mobility an adapted

skateboard with rugged wheels, symbolizing his resilience and  determination. His presence on the sidewalk serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of designing barrier-free public spaces.

His daily routine is a testament to his unwavering spirit. With his skateboard-like contraption, he navigates the uneven terrain of the city's sidewalks, relying on the kindness of strangers to occasionally lend a hand when he encounters an insurmountable obstacle. Each curb, pothole, or cluttered pathway becomes a potential barrier, making it exceedingly challenging for him to access essential services, employment opportunities, or even a safe place to rest.

The scene is a powerful illustration of the need for inclusive urban planning. A truly accessible city should accommodate individuals like him, ensuring that public spaces are designed with everyone in mind. This encompasses smooth, barrier-free footpaths, curb ramps, and tactile paving to aid the visually impaired. Such design principles promote a sense of belonging and independence for all citizens, regardless of their physical abilities. Accessible public spaces also have a positive ripple effect on the community as a whole. They encourage social interaction, foster inclusivity, and boost economic opportunities. When everyone can move freely and comfortably, the city becomes more vibrant, welcoming, and economically robust.

This person's daily struggle underscores the urgency for cities to prioritize inclusive design. It's a call to action for architects, urban planners, and policymakers to invest in barrier-free public spaces that empower individuals like him to lead dignified lives. It's not just about improving accessibility; it's about fostering a sense of belonging and demonstrating that everyone deserves the chance to thrive, irrespective of their physical limitations. His presence outside the footpath serves as a poignant reminder that the journey towards a more inclusive society begins with the streets we walk on.

....S Janasruthi

Location : Tirupur Railway station

In a world filled with visual marvels, I captured a photograph that spoke volumes in silence. A blind lady, sitting near a staircase, became the emblem of a larger issue - the critical need for barrier-free environments in our towns and cities to accommodate individuals with disabilities.

The photograph portrays a poignant scene where the blind lady's expression exudes both determination and vulnerability. Her white cane, her lifeline to the world, rests by her side. As she sits alone, a flight of stairs stands between her and her destination, seemingly insurmountable without assistance. It's a stark reminder that inaccessibility creates barriers that go far beyond mere physical obstructions; it isolates and limits the aspirations of countless individuals.

Our towns and cities must evolve into spaces that empower everyone, regardless of their abilities. This means more than just ramps and elevators; it encompasses a broader commitment to inclusivity. It involves tactile paths, auditory signals, and braille signage to guide those with visual impairments safely. It requires clear and spacious walkways, free from obstacles that could impede mobility devices like wheelchairs or walkers. And, above all, it necessitates a shift in societal attitudes, fostering empathy and understanding.  Barrier-free environments are not just about compliance; they are about dignity, independence, and equality. It is the duty of society to create spaces where everyone can participate fully in public life, realizing their potential without hindrance. The blind lady in my photograph symbolizes the countless individuals who yearn for a world where they can navigate freely and live their lives with the same autonomy and opportunities as others.

This photograph serves as a compelling reminder of the urgent need to prioritize accessibility in urban planning and development. By doing so, we can transform our towns and cities into havens of inclusivity, where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can thrive and contribute to the rich tapestry of our communities. It's a vision worth pursuing—one that promises a more equitable and compassionate future for all.

...S Janasruthi

The photo shows a concrete ramp located in Sinhgad Campus, Pune. The ramp has a steep slope, making it inaccessible for people with disabilities. It is surrounded by trees and plants, which provides shade and a pleasant environment for people to use.

Major issue with the ramp is that it has steps at the beginning of it which makes it a failure for the purpose it was constructed. The ramp doesn't have a non-slip surface. There are railings on both sides of the ramp for safety but due to the curvature in the ramp it is inappropriate for wheelchair.

The steep slope of the ramp could make it difficult for people with disabilities to use. It could be especially difficult for people who use wheelchairs or walkers, or who have limited mobility. The steep slope could also make it difficult for people to push strollers or carts up the ramp.

If the ramp is intended for use by people with disabilities, it should be redesigned to have a gentler slope. The slope could be reduced by making the ramp longer or by making it wider. The ramp could also be broken up into shorter sections with landings in between.

Redesigning the ramp would make it more accessible and usable for people with disabilities. It would also make the campus more inclusive and welcoming to all people.

...Mahabaleshwar Sawant 


Greetings to all!! I would like to introduce a man who's been working throughout his life without a single grief. We've all been surviving the same as he, but the day won't be the same for us. I've been observing the person in the train who pushed himself each station and made way for the other person to let pass I’d asked him why he did you sit in the place allotted for the differently abled person and he replied quirky - Most of the time the seat would be occupied by other passengers and even if he sat he would leave the place when others came for the reason the walking cane would disturb the comfortability of others. I was awestruck by that reply. They have the capability of thinking about other people's comfort while we just pass them without even a glance in the fast-moving world.

I think Architects and Designers have a crucial role that could change a person's life completely. This is not just about differently-abled people but also for the abled people like us we also have the probability to may or may not encounter the inability to do something which we used to do normally, even the stages of life implicit this to us. 


It shouldn’t have to be this hard

10 minutes, I am 10 minutes late for class. As if getting ready on my own is not hard enough, my hostel must be on the opposite end, through the maze of the campus. And imagine the effort it takes to travel down a ramp made for cars in a wheelchair. Now here I am, 10 minutes late, staring at yet another obstacle I must face, my department building.

A ramp is available on the other side of the building, but that should take another 3 minutes to wheel myself there. Why couldn’t the department provide a ramp at all entrances?

I can hear my heart beating, feel it thumping against my chest, the sweat trickling. I don’t think people are aware of the strength and energy it takes to wheel oneself around, especially with the sun beating down on you.

I have made it into the building! And all on my own. I can make my way to class now. But wait, my class is on the first floor. There are no elevators or ramps to the first floor. Oh! But of course there aren’t. Who would need them? We are all perfectly capable of taking the stairs with our perfect ability to walk. Forgive my sarcasm but do try to understand the frustration I feel.

It appears I may need to call for help. I must burden those around me to get to just one floor above. And yet again, my problems become someone else’s, because of the unavailability of vertical transportation for us - “us” being the differently abled. It shouldn’t have to be this hard.

I begrudgingly and helplessly call for help. 15 minutes late for class. Halting the class. Troubling everyone.

And it will all be repeated at the end of the day.

...Megan C Mawlong

This picture is taken from one of the shop-fronts in the street of Gandhi Bazaar, a culturally rich and historically significant market place, located in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Gandhi Bazaar is a 700m stretch connecting KR Road and DVG Road and is the prime shopping street located in the heart of Basavanagudi.

This century-old shopping street is flanked by shops on either sides selling organic goods like fruits and vegetables, and consumer goods like flowers, temple offerings and textiles like silk, attracting a lot of pedestrians.

Over the timeline, the place has undergone metamorphosis, wherein the built forms were once residences converted into shops have now gone basement level with a G+3 storeyed structure. Any public place should be user-friendly, easily approachable and accessible by wide range of user groups like children, elderly, pregnant women, specially abled people and socially inclusive which are foundation pillars for any architectural design. 

As seen in the picture, access to basement in most of the shops is through a steep staircase, often without the standard measurement of riser=150mm and tread-300mm and no space between the last stair and the shop-front; lack of handrails, ramps for wheelchair access poses a high risk to the users, especially during rainy seasons.

The multi-storeyed built form has allowed maximum economic gain for the landlords but it has not catered to the ease with which a user can access it. A façade is the interface between the user and the street and as a public space, it should adhere to the design agenda and guidelines.

Through this competition conducted by Ekansh Trust, I hope to bring into limelight the fact that any public space, irrespective of the scale, has to be inclusive and accessible,in continuation with the 2016 proposal by South Delhi Municipal Corporation to make market places disable-friendly.

...Sai Sanjana T

Architecture is mostly considered as a relationship between the human body and mathematical proportions or functional dimensions related to it. We usually lack in understanding that architecture not only considers the above but is also accountable for experiencing built space for an individual.

This is easy to say when we design for a known individual like a residential house but difficult to imply when we design for public spaces. Though it requires a lot thought processes it is mandatory to keep in mind the accessibility of every individual known or unknown. Unfortunately, in various places such substances are neglected. For this very reason I have considered a public washroom as my study lead.

Let us consider a few of the major disabilities that are seen in common. After referring to the ‘21 disabilities by GOI ‘I found out that disabilities such as dwarfism, blindness, cerebral palsy and other physical disabilities are seen a lot common in people. These people are not obliged to sit in a place hence the usage of public spaces by them are comparatively more. Public washrooms are the need from rich to poor, an elderly to a child, male and females. For such huge wavelength of users, it becomes necessary to design keeping in mind everyone’s functionality and experiences.

The above picture is of a public toilet from Pashan Gao, Pune. The design in the exterior is taking care of the physically disabled people by providing a ramp to overcome the plinth. In the interior there are 5 compartments in which 2 of them have a western seating. These are appreciable measures for the physically disabled. But for the blind people a brail system can be installed that shows the direction either towards the w.c. or the wash basin. This can be done by placing a different type of tile that is textured along the other tiles. Some friction can be provided to the floors for walking ease and wheels. A handrail can be provided along the plan for people who are dependant on others for support. In either of the 2 compartments a w.c. can be fitted at a lower height which can applicable for dwarfism. The overall area should not have any obstacles for easy access of the public. These alterations can also increase the use of public toilets as people tend to use the opens for ease. I conclude by stating that accessibility is not only a concept but should be thought through and be implemented at every place required.

...Shravani Kulkarni

Showing Inaccessibility

Location: Goa College of Architecture, Althino, Panjim, Goa

The college having been built on a contoured site, on top of the Althino hill in Panjim, has many staircases all throughout the structure. Having only one ramp at the entrance of the structure and no more in the interior portion of the structure and having no lifts, makes the building completely inaccessible for people with disabilities. There is no provision made for people with hearing disabilities and the tactile tiles meant for easy navigation for people with visual disabilities is only present at the entrance portion of the structure.

In this image, one can see the 2 sets of staircases, one has to access in order to reach the canteen spill out, wash rooms and other classrooms at the southern end of the building. This makes is very difficult for people with disabilities to navigate around the structure.

...Jade L Vaz

The ability to access public spaces, regardless of physical or cognitive disabilities, is essential for the inclusion and dignity of all people. Public spaces are our shared responsibility and provide essential outlets for the social, recreational, and educational needs of all people. While physical barriers have traditionally limited access for people with physical disabilities, the lack of attention to the needs of those with cognitive disabilities, developmental delays, and other neurological conditions have created similar obstacles to inclusion.

The first step in achieving this goal to an inclusive world is to raise awareness of the complexities of these disabilities and identify common obstacles. People with cognitive disabilities and developmental delays often need a safe space to relax and enjoy recreational activities. People with these disabilities may need additional support to access everyday activities, or a place to congregate with others who understand their needs.

In the above image, we can see four people helping a child with Cerebral Palsy go down a slide. Cerebral palsy is a chronic neurological disorder or disability that affects an individual’s movement and coordination. It is caused by an injury or abnormal development of the brain in the prenatal or early childhood stages. Cerebral palsy affects physical abilities, but it can also cause several other physical and mental health issues. Design and architecture must be carefully planned to accommodate all users with Cerebral palsy, Autism, Down Syndrome, Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, Fragile X syndrome and many more neurological disorders. 

The development of accessible public spaces is a shared responsibility. We must all strive to create a world that is safe, inclusive, and empathetic to the needs of all people, regardless of abilities.

Location – Malleshwaram, Bengaluru

...Sneha Raj

Location:-Anand Mahal road,Surat,Gujarat 

Passage explaining my photograph:-


In the heart of a bustling Indian city, amidst the urban symphony, a poignant photograph unveils a tale of inaccessibility. It captures a tactile pavement, a mosaic of raised surfaces, guiding those without sight. These paths, an embrace from the city, weave through its veins, yet their purpose falters within the market's chaos. 

This image reveals isolation beneath the promise of inclusion. The tactile pavement, meant for security and independence, surrenders in the market's vibrancy. It symbolizes broken promises, exposing barriers that isolate People who are visually impaired. This photo depicts inaccessibility as a looming shadow. Good intentions alone can't dismantle indifference's walls. The uneven path embodies the blind's daily struggle in a world where hidden barriers persist despite progress.  In an advancing world, neglecting the visually impaired person’s needs reminds us that true progress needs inclusivity, empathy, and equal opportunities. 

To address this, India must reflect urgently. Tactile pavements shouldn't be tokens but threads of accessibility throughout society, even in bustling markets. We have a moral obligation to let every citizen navigate life's intricate paths. 

In urban complexity, let's orchestrate inclusivity. Extend and reconstruct these paths, bridging sight and darkness. Progress must recognize those in the shadows, for greatness isn't just skyscrapers but unwavering commitment to justice, compassion, and equal opportunity

...Zaib Ali Kadri