Despite a law stipulating facilities be provided for the differently-abled, Hyderabad continues to remain an unfriendly city.
A couple of years back when Kruti Beesam wanted to enrol in her dream college for her undergrad studies, she was in for a rude shock. The girl, who suffers from cerebral palsy, was asked to try another institution because here she would not be permitted to use the elevator that was meant only for staff. Several other differently-abled people in the city like Kruti face similar challenges on a daily basis. Whether it is for the simple pleasures in life — to dine out, visit a mall, — or basic needs like crossing the road or boarding a public transport vehicle, the lack of proper facilities for the differently-abled leaves them short-changed.
“It’s disappointing that I couldn’t join the college I wanted to. Fortunately I got admission elsewhere,” says Kruti, who throughout her school years had complete cooperation from school authorities. “While there are some people who are very sensitive to a disabled person’s needs there are others who don’t seem to even be aware. Public infrastructure too is not conducive for a disabled person to navigate. For instance, I haven’t been able to travel by train because there are no facilities for somebody like me. The last time I went to cast my vote I had to leave my wheelchair and climb upstairs with my mother’s help to go to the ballot booth,” she explains.
Riddhi Asrani, a student, faces a similar situation when she goes out with her sister, who has special needs. “Having lived closely with someone who needs special facilities every time she steps out of the house, I have found the city to be unfriendly for differently-abled people. Every time we pick a restaurant to go to, the first thing we check for is whether the place has a ramp. Since not many places are designed that way it limits her outings,” she says.
Another problem most people with disabilities face is the lack of public etiquette. A lot of times, even when a wheelchair bound individual waits for the elevator; others rush in not respecting the other person’s greater need. Crossing the street too is a major challenge, with most motorists barely noticing them. “Whatever foot-over-bridges were there have now been removed due to the Metro work. This is a major issue that needs to be addressed,” says Aditya Mehta, a cyclist who lost his leg in an accident. “Forget ramps in public spaces most of them don’t even have special parking near the entrance for the disabled. Even now when I go to Police Lines area to pay my phone bill I have to park a few streets away then take an auto and go to my destination due to parking issues,” he adds.
According to the Persons with Disability Act- 1995 all public places should be disabled-friendly. Yet there is barely any implementation. Except for a few malls and parks, most other places don’t have ramps, special washrooms, Braille lift controls or wheelchair facilities. Of the multitude of government websites only a handful are disabled-friendly. “We have made several representations to the government but nothing much is being done. Each time they claim to be trying to do things to make life easier for us, but we don’t see anything materialising,” says B. Ramanjaneyulu, vice president, AP Paralympics Association. In stark contrast he says are neighbouring countries and even states where attempts are made to make life easier for the disabled. “Even Bengaluru and Chennai have ramps at railway stations and facilities for people to take their wheelchair on public transport vehicles. We need better implementation and awareness in Hyderabad.”
Why Hyderabad is unfriendly
* Few malls have ramps or special washrooms for the physically handicapped.
* Public transport usually has no special provisions for them either. Buses that have reserved seats are too high for them to board with ease.
* Sidewalks are conspicuous by their absence making it difficult for the disabled to walk on the streets.
* Most public places don’t have reserved parking for the physically handicapped. Those that do are ignored.
What they need
* Ramps at all public places like railway stations, bus terminals, malls, theatres, restaurant and places of religious importance.
* Fortunately the Metro promises to be disabled friendly.
* Wheelchairs should be provided for better mobility instead of the outdated tricycle.
* Bus pass to travel by the hitech buses that are lower and easier to board.
* Braille signages and lift controls.
* Better facilities in educational institutions for students with physical disabilities.