Malls and supermarkets might be coming up in huge numbers in the City, but how friendly are they to the physically-challenged? Bangaloreans point out that while some malls have wheelchairs and ramps, others don’t bother to install these basic facilities.
S Girija, the director of Foundation for Art and Culture for Deaf, says that it becomes very difficult for the physically-challenged to enjoy the ambience of a mall if there are no ramps and wheelchairs inside them.
“It is especially difficult for the visually-impaired and hence, many of them do not want to venture out. Though I have visited very few malls in the City, I feel that there is practically no infrastructure for physically-challenged people in them. On weekends, when malls are crowded, it’s particularly difficult. The least that can be done is installing a ramp for those who use wheelchairs. The facilities are much better in foreign countries,” she says.
Others say that although some malls do have wheelchairs, these aren’t always enough. “Oasis Mall in Koramangala has wheelchairs kept at the entrance, but the shopping alleys are not broad enough for them. It is very uncomfortable for people on wheelchairs to roam around a mall,” says Sunil, a professional.
Dr Hemant K Kalyan, consultant and head, department of orthopedics and sports medicine, Manipal Hospital, says that adding certain features while planning the infrastructure of a mall helps provide a disabled-friendly environment. “Well-located and wide parking bays, ramps at all access points and wheelchair-accessible washrooms with grab bars and anti-skid floors for the physically-disabled will help,” he says.
Other facilities that he mentions are auditory indicators in elevators to indicate the direction of movement, floor indicators for the visually-impaired and visual scrolling text indicating mall information for the hearing-impaired.
“In short, the mall architects should have a disabled-friendly mindset and put all facilities in place to give this special population an equal opportunity. Trained paramedics, who are familiar with cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and equipped with basic life-saving skills, are a great boon — not only for the disabled but also for others. Ambulances and quick access points are very helpful to save time and lives. On a more basic level, all first-aid points should be equipped to treat minor cuts and wounds and common medical problems for the disabled in particular,” he suggests.
Nandish, the marketing head of Garuda Mall, says that the mall is fully equipped to handle the needs of the physically-challenged.
“Both our entrances have wheelchairs and we also have escorts for the physically-challenged. The lifts are broad so that the wheelchairs can fit in them and the lift boys have been instructed to ensure that physically-challenged people are comfortable. We also have special washrooms for them. Not many malls in the City provide facilities for the physically-challenged. However, countries like Dubai have excellent facilities for this section of the population,” he sums up.