How are the disabled and elderly on wheelchairs to negotiate ramps that are wrongly constructed?
A few years ago when preparations for hosting the Commonwealth games began, there was a flurry of activity to refurbish existing sports facilities, to widen roads, to build flyovers and subways, construct new and very modern bus shelters and to generally spruce-up Delhi city.
Various authorities responsible for these schemes monitored progress, inspected sites, gave on the spot guidance, suggested modifications and kept sending the architects back to the drawing boards. The result of such adhocism and too much application of mind by bureaucrats and politicians in matters that they knew little about were to manifest themselves in all kinds of mishaps, like the collapse of a pedestrian facility and non-completion of more than a few projects in time for the inauguration of the games.
Despite all this, much was made of new designer bus shelters and the large number of pedestrian subways and overhead bridges built under and across roads. This we were told will improve traffic flow and reduce accidents involving pedestrians. It was claimed that both the bus stands and the overhead bridges had ramps that were designed to help the aged and the disabled, especially those confined to wheelchairs, in negotiating the roads.
Step out of your house and inspect the nearest bus stand or the first overhead bridge that you come across and you will find the following peculiarities in construction:
Though there are slopes or ramps built along approaches to most bus stands, these ramps join foot paths which have no provision for a slope, so the slope of the bus stand ramp ends on a footpath that is at least 6 inches if not higher than the ramp. How should a person confined to a wheelchair negotiate this is difficult to understand.
The ramps on almost all foot bridges begin at least 8 to 10 inches above ground level, does the authority building these bridges expect wheelchair-bound people -- the old and those differently abled -- to wait till a good samaritan arrives to lift them and their wheelchair on to the ramp and what would happen at the other end? There are a few bridges where the ramp rises gently at ground level but these began to be used by two wheeler drivers and stray cows to zip across the road and so the authorities barricaded the ramps in such a manner that only the able bodied can negotiate them.
It has been a while since the Commonwealth Games came and went and all these facilities built with much fanfare are once again a picture of neglect. It was the same for the facilities built for the Asian Games way back in 1982. And once the media attention has moved on to other more pressing issues like the mercurial Mamta and Mayawati memorials, our short lived concern for the economically disadvantaged, read pedestrians and the physically disabled, takes a back seat.