Simple infrastructure for commute still a major challenge for differently-abled in India

October 08, 2021 3:27 PM

Barcelona has bus stop request button where the physically impaired have a request button installed on-ramps to facilitate wheelchair exits. This is where India needs to cope up to provide better commutation infrastructure for the physically impaired.

wheelchairFootpaths in residential areas must be adequately widened up to (1.8 m) to permit at least two wheelchairs to travel. (Representational image: IE)

By Prashant Agarwal,

Better infrastructure along with signs on the streets and separate spaces for commute for differently-abled are the need of the hour. Many countries follow this as a norm of having separate walkways and even driveways for the differently-abled. Lyon, France, has subway stations that are equipped with lifts and dedicated gates; New York City’s subway is equipped with Autogate; Montreal, has all metropolitan buses that are accessible for wheelchair users; Barcelona has bus stop request button where the physically impaired have a request button installed on-ramps to facilitate wheelchair exits. This is where India needs to cope up to provide better commutation infrastructure for the physically impaired.

According to the Accessible India Scheme, persons with disabilities (PWDs) are required to receive special white lights for footpaths that maintain colour contrast from the road and ensure that tactile pavers are visible at night along with an audible light signal turning green. The Accessible India Scheme also offers access from boarding gates defined with warning tiles in buses, folding ramps inside low floor buses allow access to mobility aid users. However, these facilities are barely available in a few parts of India.

Public transport in India must be revamped where taxis, trains, bus stands must have accessible toilets. Long-distance travel seems impossible for the physically impaired in trains due to the lack of availability of wheelchair ramps, audible instructions and even toilets that are not fully equipped with facilities for the differently-abled. Facilities such as wheelchairs on local bus stations, ramps for those who are physically impaired seem missing in rural parts where long queues and waits are a regular scene. Thus, the whole transportation infrastructure must be redesigned to make these spaces more accessible for the differently-abled. Roads must have separate ways for travel and routes which are only dedicated for the differently-abled with audible directions and signal lights. Separate pathways must be strictly dedicated for the ease of commute even on gas filling stations which would help them to invest less time in queues and travel.

Government and Private Buildings are now being built as per the needs of the differently-abled. Ramps and elevators with sound instructions are now being installed. Directions and maps along with floor plans are dedicated to the physically impaired. Unlike a few years earlier, buildings in the urban areas are far more equipped which has eased the lives of the people suffering from disabilities. However, this still seems to be a challenge in the rural parts of the country due to non-maintenance and authorities overlooking such challenges.

Campaigns on equity- Restaurants and small organisations including some corporates have made it a point to recruit those with physical disabilities. This has offered an impetus for those with disabilities to pursue their dream careers. Ministries running campaigns and schemes for maintaining equity have proved to be beneficial for those with physical impairments

Footbridges, footpaths and vehicles: In the urban parts of India, various civil engineers and architects have suggested creating transport infrastructure for the differently-abled. By creating accessible footbridges, footpath and vehicles have tremendously helped the differently-abled in their mobility

Indian Road Congress (IRC) 2012 guidelines: Footpaths in residential areas must be adequately widened up to (1.8 m) to permit at least two wheelchairs to travel

Local leader involvement: In rural India, political leaders and with local Government’s involvement can change the face of this situation. As persons with disabilities faces stigma from home, school, health and public transport, prioritised social campaigns must be launched to influence the mindsets of people

Local Participation: Political leaders must make it a point to have a physically impaired person as a local representative to address certain issues. This creates a direct connection amongst those suffering from disabilities even at the grassroots level and allows them to raise and share challenges faced by them with ease. Local bodies such as Panchayats and Sarpanch committee must have involvement of a differently-abled representative to reach out to maximum people who can address their issues and challenges with ease

Thus, social participation, active involvement and small infrastructure changes would help the physically impaired overcome challenges allowing social inclusion.

(The author is President of Narayan Seva Sansthan. NSS is a non-profit organization serving differently abled and underprivileged individuals. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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