Indore, Jhalawar, Kannur to be declared disabled-friendly, but are they really?
On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, the government of India will declare Indore, Jhalawar and Kannur as disabled-friendly districts. After assessing the work done so far in the three city-headquarters of the districts, differently-abled persons tell HT what more needs to be done.india Updated: Dec 02, 2016 09:07 IST
A barrier-free environment is crucial for Divyanshu Jain, 27. Being differently-abled has always posed challenges for the sales professional in a software company. “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 say disability-friendly, half of my woes will be solved,” said Jain.
So, has Indore city actually become barrier-free? HT accompanied Jain for a reality check.
At the city’s railway station, ramps have been constructed on some platforms, but it’s a fair distance from the main platform to a ramp and most differently abled people end up using the stairs instead. “The ramp constructed under Rajkumar bridge is very far. Also, there is no way to move between platforms 2 and 3. Most of the times, as I use a crutch, I end up taking the stairs. For people who are not able to walk even a bit, it’s a problem,” said Jain.
“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 say disability-friendly, half of my woes will be solved.”
Provision has been made for wheelchair facility, but work on easing the difficulties of the visually impaired will be taken up in the next phase, said officials.
The inter-state bus stand at Sarwate had wheelchairs. “We keep a couple of wheelchairs. The moment somebody does an enquiry, we give them the wheelchair and ensure that a coolie accompanies them,” said an official at the enquiry wing of the bus stop.
However, no ramp or designated spots for sitting are present. “People usually vacate their spots as soon as they feel somebody needs it,” the official added.
The place remains a challenge for the visually impaired in the absence of charts in Braille as well as a facility for announcing bus timings. Jain said, “This is a very difficult spot for the visually impaired. There are no designated pathways for them to walk. It cannot be termed barrier-free.”
- 15.5 lakh differently-abled people in Madhya Pradesh, according to the 2011 Census report.
- 78,761 differently-abled people in Indore, the second highest in the state after Bhopal.
Maharaja Yeshwantrao (MY) Hospital, central India’s biggest government hospital, had a ramp at the entrance, but going from one place to another within the facility still poses a problem.
“I often go to MY Hospital for blood donation and find it quite difficult to commute from one place to another. Ramps are not there everywhere. Also the distance from the parking to the ramp is quite far,” said Jain.
Mahendra Singh, 23, who is unable to use crutches, said, “I have to crawl from the parking to the ramp to approach for a wheelchair. It is not possible to bring an attendant every time. What is the point of stating a place to be barrier-free if we have to bring someone with us every time?”
Asked about the points raised by Jain and Singh, Indore collector P Narhari said, “We have improved the situation immensely. Ramps have been erected at places which had none.”
“I have to crawl from the parking to the ramp to approach for a wheelchair. It is not possible to bring an attendant every time. What is the point of stating a place to be barrier-free if we have to bring someone with us every time?”
He added, “Our focus this time was on three things — constructing ramps and making wheelchairs available; making essential facilities such as water available, so we installed taps in areas built at low height for easy access, and toilets were also covered in this section; finally, signboards and signals for providing easy access to information.”
He said in the second phase of work, the focus would be on making information available in Braille and using audio messages at all places for the visually impaired.
A lot has been done but more barriers need to be removed, according to differently-abled persons in Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje’s home district.
Polio-affected Kesri Lal Bairwa, 40, a ration shop dealer, said he used to face difficulty climbing the stairs of Atal Seva Kendra, but construction of ramps and railings had made access easier.
Other government buildings with ramps and railings at entrances in Jhalawar include the mini-secretariat and hospitals. The mini-secretariat and court have lifts as well. A few months ago, two residential schools were started in the district for speech and hearing impaired children, and for children with learning disabilities.
Jhalawar collector Dr Jitendra Kumar Soni, who initiated a drive for a barrier-free environment for differently-abled persons, said ramps and railing facilities had been made mandatory in all new government buildings. He added that around 2,000 ramps and railings had been constructed.
- 14.1 lakh differently-abled people in Rajasthan, according to the 2011 Census report.
- 21,285 differently-abled people in Jhalawar.
Barriers, however, remain at some places. Abdul Majeed Khan, 50, whose right leg has been amputated, said several offices and banks need to get ramps, railings and lifts.
Soni said some old buildings had limited space and posed practical problems in easing access. “We are planning to start kiosks for the differently-abled on the ground floor of such buildings by January 26 next year.”
North Kerala’s Kannur was declared the country’s first disabled-friendly district earlier this year under a project named ‘Barrier-Free Kannur’. The project, launched in 2015, was the brainchild of former district collector Balakiran and saw 1,842 public institutions acquire a barrier-free environment. All institutions and public offices were equipped with steel railings, slope on the ramp to use wheelchairs, grooved tile surfaces for the visually challenged and display boards in Braille script. Additionally, special parking lots were earmarked for the differently-abled. The initiatives are now backed by awareness drives.
Work under the project was completed in 10 months. Mir Mohammed Ali, Kannur district collector now, said, “Initially people asked why these changes. When we explained the need they came around easily. Some of the private institutions also followed suit. This will also help elderly people.”
- 7.6 lakh differently-abled people in Kerala, according to 2011 Census report.
- 57,831 differently-abled people in Kannur.
Users say they feel the difference now. Earlier K Raghu, an upper division clerk at the district collectorate, used to take 20 minutes to climb steps to reach his second-storey office building. He has stunted growth. “I had to struggle to reach office every morning and remain there till evening fearing exhaustion. With new lift and other facilities I come down for lunch easily. I feel life has become much lighter these days,” he said adding that new toilets with easier access were a real boon.
Of the 40,000 workforce across 2,018 institutions of the district, nearly 12% are differently-abled.