First impressions indicate that there is hope yet for the disabled commuter
Public transport and roads in Bangalore have been patently disabled-unfriendly. The same holds true for a majority of public spaces that, barring a few ramps here and there, do nothing to help people living with disabilities.
First impressions of the Namma Metro stations indicate that there is hope yet for the disabled commuter. Apart from the mandatory ramps at the entrances, the stations have specially grooved-tiles to help the visually-impaired navigate their way into and about the station.
The ramps are wide, both at the entrance to the station and to the ticket counter. The grooved tiles — one with circles and the other with cylindrical grooves aligned in a particular direction — serve to indicate to the visually-impaired which direction to take.
The staff at the Metro station told The Hindu that the tiles with the circles would help the visually impaired realise that they were in front of a new level and would have to take either a left or right, while with the ones with the cylindrical groves, they would know that they can continue to go on ahead. The tiles with cylindrical groves lead from the Metro platform to the lift and the two escalators.
The lift too has buttons with Braille inscription to help the visually impaired. Though the station does not have public restrooms yet, there is a special restroom for the disabled in the staff rooms. To reach the platforms, commuters can either climb up 87 stairs, take either of the two escalators or take the lift. The swipe counters and ticketing booths too appear to be low enough for wheel-chair users to use them.
Metro officials claim that facilities and access for persons with disabilities have been provided in accordance with the Public Works Department norms. The ticket counters are low and gates are wide enough for persons on wheel-chairs to enter the stations.
While these are only the first impressions, once the stations open and persons with disabilities are able to use the station, a clearer picture of just how adequate these provisions are will emerge.
Namma Metro had also said that other facilities such as announcement and hooters for the visually-impaired and glow lights in prominent places and signals and tickers for the hearing-impaired will also be put in place.
Earlier this year, the project had courted controversy when Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) got an exemption from providing jobs to persons with disabilities. The Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities took suo motu action against BMRCL for seeking such an exemption, following which two hearings were held after which the authority agreed to implement the mandatory reservation.
K.V. Rajanna, Commissioner for Persons with Disability, says that earlier this year he and disability rights activists had conducted an audit at the Metro stations, and suggested some improvements. He is confident that the Namma Metro project will indeed be friendly towards people with different kinds of disability and hopes it sets a benchmark for other public facilities too.