Physically challenged people driving vehicles specially designed for them may soon be able to drive on national highways without paying toll.
The central government has decided to give toll exemption to “motor vehicle specially designed and constructed, and not merely adapted, for the use of a person suffering from some physical defect or disability, and used solely by or for such a person” on all national highways. Section 2(18) of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, defines such vehicles as “invalid carriage”.
The Union road transport and highways ministry, which is piloting the proposal, will notify the changes soon. The law ministry cleared the proposal last week.
“We thought that asking for a disability certificate would further hassle the person. Instead we decided to give exemption to persons with disability driving specially designed vehicles as defined under the MV Act,” said a senior road ministry official.
Certain automobile manufacturers, including Maruti, make cars with special features like hand-operated or automatic clutch and gear for the physically challenged.
Disability rights activists, however, are not impressed and term the move as “cosmetic”.
“How many of the 26 million disabled people in India drive automated vehicles, maybe just 1%. It’s mere tokenism. Giving toll exemption has nothing to do with accessibility. Has the road ministry ever engaged with us to address transportation issues of persons with disability? How many public transport buses are accessible for the disabled, how many toilets on highways are disabled friendly?” said Javed Abidi, director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.
Internationally, many cities give toll exemption to persons with disability.
In Florida, a handicapped person with a valid driver’s licence and operating a vehicle equipped for such persons gets a toll waiver.
In UK, disabled persons are given a “blue badge” and get a toll exemption on showing the card.