Public places remain inaccessible to those with disabilities
When Sonu Gupta, a tennis player from Delhi, reached the Koramangala Indoor Stadium, where he was participating in the ongoing National Paralympics table tennis championship this weekend here, he found the stadium out of bounds. While the front entrance had a fleet of stairs, the back one too presented a steep climb for the wheelchair-bound athlete.
Sonu Gupta was left with no choice but to steer his way to the back door, and take the help of two boys to lift and place his wheelchair towards the entrance. “I don't want to be dependent on people. It’s shocking that at a paralympic competition they haven’t bothered to make basic provisions,” he fumed.
Public buildings too
While it reeks of irony when a paralympic meet does not sort out issues of physical access, the fact is that most public spaces and amenities across the city are inaccessible to persons with disabilities. Take, for instance, government buildings such as the head office of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) on K.H. Road, the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited office, Mayo Hall or the Jal Bhavan. None of these have as much as a ramp. This is in violation of the People With Disabilities Act 1995 and violates every building code there is.
Many buildings that have a ramp don’t comply with building guidelines for its interiors, said T. Seetharam, general secretary, Paralympic Wheel Chair Tennis Federation of India. “It is difficult for us to commute, or even visit these public offices. If there is a fleet of stairs, then I have to depend on at least two people to lift me,” he says.
Accounts of people with disabilities living across the city confirm that 17 years after the People With Disabilities Act, Bangalore remains a maze of hurdles for persons with disabilities.
Ghulam Abbas, a 42-year-old LIC agent who suffers from spinal column muscular atrophy, uses a wheelchair to get around. He says that due to the lack of accessibility in public and private places, he has to depend on his son and his father to travel. “I feel I am snatching my son’s childhood and troubling my 75-year-old father. But I have no other option; I need to survive as well,” he says.
‘I don’t want pity’
Bank employee S.P. Nagesh, echoes his sentiments. “I don’t want pity. I just need accessible public places so that I can lead an independent life so that I do not have to depend on people,” he says.
This feeling of dependence, most persons with disabilities say, is the most crippling part. Something as simple as boarding buses, for instance, is a reinforcement of their disability.
Sandesha B.G. (28), a content analyst in a private company, suffered until he got himself a three-wheeler scooter. He recalls the horror of travelling by bus, and requesting people to lift him into the bus. He points out how putting a simple metal sheet at the entrance of the bus can guarantee dignity and independence of people like him. “I don't want pity, just little sensitivity to our needs,” he says.
An RTI query on the accessibility of toilets maintained by the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike has revealed that 56 toilets in areas such as Vijayanagar, Jeevanbimanagar, Basavangudi, Madivala, Girinagar and Maruthisevanagar were disability unfriendly. None of those toilets, for which information was requested, had made provisions for people with disabilities.