As a woman with disability, Bangalore is welcoming and lets me be. But infrastructure leaves a lot to be desired, writes Meenu Bhambhani
When I came to Bangalore in 2007, unsure, un-opinionated and non-judgmental about the city, I saw Bangalore through its epithets: green, friendly, a pensioner's paradise and most importantly, the disability capital of India. The only thing that was negative was the traffic.
I am originally from Jaipur and before moving to Bangalore, I had lived in Delhi, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Kishangarh taluk in Ajmer, Rajasthan. Moving to these different cities helped me develop a sense of the spectrum — most disabled-friendly; moderately disabled-friendly or most disabled-unfriendly.
The growth of a city, its development and its “world class” status cannot be measured unless a significant population (persons with disabilities and elderly) and its experience is not factored in.
Is Bangalore “world class” or closer to being “world class”? Is it really the disability capital of India? Well, the city is receptive to new ideas and from a disability perspective I have seen the opening of Office of Disability Services at the Indian Institute of Management–Bangalore; the IT industry catering to a larger number of persons with disabilities as an equal opportunity employer; and creating equity at the workplace.
Bangalore's Namma Metro is to start soon. The Byappanahalli Metro Station does have ramps with railings and signages of wheelchair access. It remains to be seen if it will cater to this population.
Beyond these symbols one, of course, sees the utter disregard in its overall infrastructure: for pedestrians, old people, cyclists, persons with disabilities. The sidewalks, bus-stops and sports facilities are a model of exclusion and create dependence for its vulnerable population.
Most swimming champions in India come from Bangalore but if you see the facilities here, there is nothing for those with joint ailments or persons with disabilities.
Yet, it remains a city that is non-interfering and one that lets you be. As a woman and as a woman with disability, Bangalore has given me both anonymity and welcomed me with open arms. I am quite hopeful that Bangalore would live up to its name of being the disability capital of India and also become “world class” by including all.
(Meenu Bhambhani has worked in the space of disability rights and heads Corporate Social Responsibility at MphasiS)