For Indore’s Divyanshu Jain, living an independent life has always been a challenge. What the 27-year-old disabled sales professional wants is a barrier-free environment.
“I commute on my tricycle and don’t like to depend on anybody for anything. If I get a barrier-free environment or as many like to call a disabled-friendly one, then half of my woes will be over,” he said.
Lucky for him, Indore is set to be designated a disabled-friendly district. At a ceremony to be held on December 3, Indore will share the honour with Rajasthan’s Jhalawar and Coonoor in Kerala.
But is Indore actually barrier-free? HT did a reality check and found that apart from ramps and wheelchairs at a few places, the city has a long way to go to make it accessible to the disabled.
While Indore Junction has ramps on some platforms, they are quite distant from the main, forcing many physically challenged to use the stairs instead.
“The ramp which is constructed under Rajkumar bridge is very far. Also, there is no way to move between Platform Nos. 2 and 3. Since I use a crutch, I end up taking the stairs most of the times. For people who are not able to walk even a little, it is a problem,” said Jain, who accompanied HT during the reality check.
While wheelchairs have been made available, there is hardly anything for the visually challenged. No railway chart is made in Braille format, leaving them at the mercy of attendants.
The Sarwate bus stand has wheelchairs for the physically challenged, assisted by a coolie. However, there are no ramps or designated spots where disabled can sit.
“People usually vacate their spots if they feel somebody needs it,” said an official at the inquiry desk.
For the visually challenged, the place is full of barriers without Braille charts or facilities for announcing bus timings. “There are no designated pathways for them to walk,” Jain pointed out, adding that this cannot be termed disabled-friendly.
Central India’s biggest government hospital has a ramp right at the entrance, but not at other places, making it difficult for the disabled to move around.
“I often go to MY hospital for blood donation and find it quite difficult to move from one place to another. Ramps are not everywhere. Also the distance from the parking to the ramp is quite far,” Jain said.
Mahendra Singh, 23, another physically challenged individual who accompanied HT in the reality check, said, “I am unable to use crutches also. So I have to crawl from the parking to the ramp to approach for a wheel chair. It is not possible to bring an attendant every time.”
“What is the point of declaring a place to be barrier free if we have to bring with us someone every time?” he asked.
However, Indore collector P Narhari said the government has improved the situation immensely. “Ramps have been erected at places where earlier there was nothing.”
“Our focus this time was on three things. First was on constructing ramps and making wheelchairs available. Second was making essential facilities like water available.
“So we constructed taps and areas which have low height so individuals sitting in a wheelchair can also access them. Toilets were also covered in this section.
“Third was the importance on signboards and signals which make availing information easy for the disabled,” he said, adding that in the second phase, focus will be on making the city friendly for the visually challenged, by making information available in Braille and using audio messages at all places.