Delhi Metro really disabled-friendly?

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Delhi Metro really disabled-friendly?

It is often referred to as the lifeline of Delhi and rightly so, considering that it ferries lakhs of passengers everyday – normally without delays. The Delhi Metro’s performance has stood the test of time in the last decade, making an ever-increasing number of commuters dependent on it. There is little doubt that the Metro has contributed in no small measure to taking Delhi and its infrastructural facilities to the next level! 

Another factor which has raised the bar in its favour is the Metro’s disabled-friendly approach and the facilities that DMRC provides to the physically challenged.

It is correct that Delhi Metro is one of the most disabled-friendly public transport systems in the country, given that all stations have ramps right from the streets so that wheelchair-bound persons can directly wheel up to the lifts and control panels inside the elevators are positioned at lower levels so that these individuals can access them without having to strain themselves. There are even buttons with inscriptions in braille for the use of the visually challenged.

Other special arrangements have been made for the visually impaired. Tiles with tactile markings have been provided outside the lifts so that they can follow these to go directly from the ground level to the trains. Inside the trains, special spots have been earmarked for wheelchairs too.

Still, the good news kind of stops here.

Delhi Metro does seem ill-prepared not just for emergencies, but also when it comes to helping the disabled with wheelchairs. The number of wheelchairs and stretchers at one of the busiest stations Rajiv Chowk, is limited to only three and five respectively! A spokesperson for DMRC confirms: “We have three wheelchairs and five stretchers, which is enough. Other stations with single lines have one wheelchair and that is quite manageable. We have not yet found any difficulty when it comes to helping the disabled. One needs to just wait for few minutes for wheelchairs to arrive.”

What he omits to mention is that the ‘few minutes’ can take well over 20-25 mins to materialise for the individual concerned. One has even seen a polio-afflicted girl being carried into and out of the train by her brother who chose not to wait for the wheelchair to arrive.

Amit Hallan, a wheelchair bound commuter who boards the Metro from Noida on a regular basis is just about okay with the service. “I haven’t faced any issue personally. It is easy when you are inside the train but difficult when you are on the platform because of the crowds. At some stations, the level of the train and the platform is not even and hence, I face difficulty in getting the wheelchair into the train. Other than this Delhi Metro is disabled-friendly. The guards are also helpful.”

Abha Khetarpal, disability councillor and president of Cross The Hurdles NGO, who herself is wheelchair bound, says, “Inside the trains there are no issues. But other basic necessities like washrooms, are missing. They are slippery, have open taps or some are even being used as store rooms because their usage is less. Some stations, including New Delhi, have railing problems. These are some basic things which keep the disabled away from Delhi Metro.”

On the contrary Reena Yadav, a daily commuter who changes from Rajiv Chowk, complains about the delay in getting a wheelchair for a disabled person. “I have seen a man wait for more than 20 minutes at the station for a wheelchair. They don’t have enough wheelchairs and that is a worrisome issue.”  This, when the situation is normal. Think of what may happen in the case of an emergency.

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