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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

World Disability Day: Is Chandigarh really beautiful? Ask a person on wheelchair

Chandigarh’s infrastructure makes it difficult for the differently-abled to commute.

punjab Updated: Dec 03, 2017 21:06 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
The ramp outside the Chandigarh MC office is difficult to use because the tiles are broken.
The ramp outside the Chandigarh MC office is difficult to use because the tiles are broken.(Ravi Kumar/HT)

He is independent and a confident man as long as he is in his house. But life changes when he steps out, courtesy the city’s infrastructure which is indifferent to the needs of the differently abled persons.

A third-year law student at the Panjab University, Fateh Whig, 20, says whenever he moves out, he has to depend on others to help him with his wheelchair. “This shatters my confidence,” he says.

To understand the everyday challenges that the differently abled face in Chandigarh—a city that boasts of being ‘well-designed’—Hindustan Times spent some hours with Fateh on the eve of International Day of Persons With Disabilities, on Saturday.

Two hours of reality check

The journey started from his house in Sector 35, Chandigarh, through Sector 17-the ‘Heart of Chandigarh’-and back.

Our first stop is at the Chandigarh municipal corporation’s House building. We halt here to see if the civic authority has any facility for wheelchair-bound people.

It was a disappointment because the ramp was broken, which made it unusable.

We then moved towards the office of the Registering and Licencing Authority. It has a ramp and it isn’t broken! But is that enough? No, it isn’t. Fateh could not use it because two-wheelers were parked on its entrance, making it impossible for anyone to use a wheelchair.

Head aches at Sec-17 market

The Sector-17 market is a stone’s throw from here. But reaching there is another challenge for Fateh. Traffic refuses to stop, and separate passage for wheelchairs are non-existent. Finally, we somehow managed to reach the market that people say have seen better days.

There are three ramps for the differently abled. At last, Fateh could be on his own and move around. Could he? No. The ramps are there, but are poorly designed. The slope is so steep that he can’t move his wheelchair on his own.

“The last time I visited Sector-17 market was in 2013. I never revisited it because the infrastructure is unfriendly for the differently abled. My mother has to pick me up every time we enter a shop. This is quite embarrassing,” he says.

Nothing to refresh at Rose Garden Disappointed from the city’s unfriendly heart, we thought of refreshing it at the Rose Garden.

But how do we reach there? Footpath where wheelchairs can move don’t exist. Fateh tried to use the ramp, but broken tiles cast their nasty spell again.

With some help, we moved on the zebra crossing but the footpath on the other side was no different. We then used the cycle lane to reach the garden. Ten minutes, and we were at the entrance.

“I have never visited this garden but I would love to,” said Fateh, as he tried to move his wheelchair on the ramp outside it. He tried thrice, but in vain. “This has not been designed properly,” he said disappointingly.

Another landmark in Chandigarh, and the same disappointment.

‘UT can make me feel independent’

Tiered of this, Fateh changed his mind and we decided to return. On our way, he said, “I really want to see if the UT advisor’s office is accessible to people like me.” Unfortunately, it isn’t.

“I want the UT administration to make hundreds of wheelchair-bound people like me feel independent,” he says. Asked how can it be done, he said, “By making public places accessible to us. To begin with, all marketplaces and government buildings should be made accessible.”

The two-hour journey ended at his home. “Do you now realise how difficult it is for a wheelchair-bound person to survive alone in this city?” his mother asks, adding that Chandigarh has turned a blind eye towards the rights of its differently abled residents.

Oasis of hope in the desert of gloom

However, Fateh’s struggle for his rights has borne some fruits at his varsity.

His department did not have any separate washroom for the differently abled. He approached the authorities and one was constructed. The department’s canteen did not have a ramp. He highlighted the issue, it was has been constructed.

He says he decided to study law so that he can fight for his rights and for hundreds others who have not been able to raise their voice.

“I want to make Chandigarh a city that is friendly towards the differently abled. It is our right to live with dignity, and we will have it,” he says.

First Published: Dec 03, 2017 10:41 IST

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