An increasing number of state-of-the-art buses may have joined the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) fleet in the recent years. But this modernisation of the public transport system has not brought relief to people with disabilities who say access is still difficult.
If the disabled-unfriendly bus stations cause enormous difficulties to those with loco-motor deficiency, the visually impaired have to depend on the kindness of others in the absence of a public announcement system. As for the hearing impaired, they find it difficult without visual displays.
Insensitive drivers, who park the bus away from the designated bus stops, pose safety hazards for the disabled while the bus stops themselves are not accessible for those with walking disability.
“It is almost impossible for the disabled to use the public transport services in Bangalore. The problems start from reaching the bus stands to boarding the bus and [alighting]. Persons with disabilities also have to contend with the attitude of the co-passengers and conductors,” C. Mahesh, Advocacy Coordinator at CBR Forum, a disabled rights advocacy group, told The Hindu.
About one lakh disabled bus passes are issued in Karnataka, and BMTC honours passes that are issued in places within a 100-km radius of Bangalore. Merely issuing free passes for the disabled or reserving two seats in each bus will not help unless the accessibility issue is addressed, he said.
A committee of disabled people should be formed whose disabled-friendly suggestions should be considered while planning and executing transport-related infrastructure projects, he added.
Pointing to the low-floor Volvo buses, Mr. Mahesh said: “Though ramps are available in these buses, we can hardly use them as they have to be operated by the drivers, who seldom do it."
R. Guru Rao, a senior citizen who suffers from loco-motor disorder, pointed out at the rule that vests the discretionary power with the conductors to allow disability passes on Volvo services.
While all disabled people were allowed to board the Volvo before, it is now restricted to only those with walking disabilities.
“Many times I've been told rudely to disembark by the conductor. How can he decide what my problems are?" he asked.
Conceding that BMTC has a long way to go as regards infrastructure for the disabled, a senior official said: “We follow vehicle-centric planning; [yes,] overall change [in approach] is required to meet the needs of the disabled. Bus stations don't have ramps and bus stops are often constructed on a platform as high as two feet and that too without a ramp.”
Keywords: Public transport