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Updated: December 4, 2012 11:49 IST

Disability not a criterion to deny them respect

Amutha Kannan
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A disabled man using the long stairway to the platform at the Coimbatore junction. Photo:K.Ananthan.
The Hindu A disabled man using the long stairway to the platform at the Coimbatore junction. Photo:K.Ananthan.

As a differently-abled friendly measure, the Coimbatore Corporation has built orthopaedically-friendly toilets at 12 places in the city.

All that they expect is respect. But they say they are denied this by virtue of their being differently-abled. They are made to feel ashamed of their disability.

They regularly complain of being ridiculed by the public, treated discourteously by drivers and conductors of State-owned buses, and having to use public rest rooms and other common areas that are not disabled-friendly.

These grievances of theirs come into focus with the United Nation’s theme for this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities being “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”.

The United Nations defines barriers as those “relating to the physical environment or to information and communications technology, or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination”.

Many representations have been made by the differently-abled to various authorities alleging ‘abusive’ behaviour by drivers and conductors operated by the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation. Unless demanded, they are not issued the special concessional ticket they are eligible for, they are refused seat because they travel on concession, and even the escort of the differently-abled who is eligible for concession is ridiculed.

K. Thiruvenkatasamy of Annur who was “abused” by the conductor of a TNSCTC bus when he travelled from Bhavani to Avanashi submitted a memorandum to the Collector sometime ago. Two passengers who were occupying the seat meant for the differently-abled not only refused to vacate the same, but also “abused” him along with the conductor.

Orthopaedically challenged M. Kamaraj, social worker in ‘Thiramai’, a movement working for the differently-abled, says that such cases of “abuse” are on the rise. He laments that most of the times the privileges have to be demanded.

There is a plea from them to sensitise drivers and conductors to the Government Orders on the privileges for differently-abled.

M.N.G. Mani, Managing Trustee of UDIS Forum, says it is important to understand the needs of the differently-abled. “It is wrong to think that inclusive education will help create an inclusive society. Inclusion and accessibility should be there in all spheres of their activity. When a bus stops even 50 m away from the bus stand it disorients the visually challenged. Being conscious of such small things will make a great difference to them,” he says.

The city is still inadequate in disabled-friendly facilities. As a differently-abled friendly measure, the Coimbatore Corporation has built orthopaedically-friendly toilets at 12 places in the city. The civic body has constructed toilets at the two bus stands in Gandhipuram, at VOC Park, Ukkadam, Mettupalayam Road bus stand, Collectorate, Singanallur, and at its Central, West, North, East and Main offices. Surya Nagappan, a differently-abled activist, says that it is a welcome move, aimed at making the city disabled-friendly.

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