The missing sensitivity

The missing sensitivity

The World Disabled Day’ is around the corner and even as government bodies trumpet their efforts in making the lives of the disabled better, there remains much to be desired. The lives of the disabled are nothing short of a struggle, especially on roads, parks, malls, railway stations, bus stands or any public space.

 
While the City Railway Station has a ramp for the disabled, it is used by ordinary people and isn’t as well maintained as it is supposed to be. Most malls don’t have ramps and the physically challenged are forced to wait for lifts. It is difficult considering the lifts are not only crowded but also few and far in number. The toilets for the physically disabled in malls remain locked most of the time or are poorly maintained. These are only a few of the concerns faced by the physically challenged.

Shakti V, founder and CEO of The Quill, who moves around on a wheelchair, says that he has faced his share of indifference from the society. But that hasn’t discouraged him from achieving his goals. Sharing his personal experience, he says that his family is extremely supportive. He says, “In fact, my son is my hero and he thinks that I am his. My son and I have never played cricket together, never gone for a movie together and I haven’t been to a playground or a mall with him even once! Why? I am on a wheelchair and this is India.” When it comes to accessibility for the disabled in public place, Shakti doesn’t have much to say. “Even the mere expectation of accessibility is met with indifference and contempt. Cut to my stint in the US and it was like heaven compared to what I am going through here! It is a country that believes that accessibility is a necessary aspect of living and every single structure is accessible, public or private. The barriers to entry or exit do not exist. But here, a physically challenged does not even figure in any person’s issues’ list,” he observes.

The experience of Nirmala, who works as an accounts assistant, isn’t very different. She travels by bus to and from work but she has nothing positive to say about the accessibility bit. “It’s a nightmare to board a bus from Majestic Bus Stand. The footboard on buses is high and hard to climb. Secondly, the bus drivers don’t care when they see a physically-challenged person,” points out Nirmala. She feels that society as a whole is insensitive towards people with a disability. Although, Nirmala feels the parks now have a few facilties for the disabled, the malls lag behind in this respect. “The toilets, exclusively for the disabled, at the malls stink and are badly maintained,” she adds. 
 
Kenneth Mark Cunningham, department in-charge, Transport, Khoday India Ltd says he almost gave up his job in the City and wanted to relocate after his personal life fell apart. But things suddenly changed for the better. “I was about to leave when the company I work in now took me on, gave me a place to stay and provided me some help as well.

Now, I feel like I am wanted,” he shares. But Kenneth is disappointed by the facilities for the physically challenged in the City.

“I’ve been to several malls in the City but the facilities for the physically challenged are very poor. There are no ramps in malls. Are the disabled expected to take the stairs? The toilets in most public places are dirty and inaccessible to the disabled. The situation at railway stations and bus stands isn’t good either,” he says.

Kenneth shares that his experiences with auto drivers have been the worst. “Most auto drivers are rude and take advantage of our situation and charge extra because they know we are dependent on them. How much more insensitive can they get?”he asks.   

The government states that it is doing its bit to make public spaces more accessible to the physically challenged. Commissioner of the BBMP, M Lakshminarayana informs, “We have erected static exercising equipment for the physically challenged at about 150 parks across the City. The new Tender SURE roads have a ramp exclusively for the disabled.”

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