“There’s nothing in the Railway budget to be happy about, because there is almost nothing in it for the disabled,” said Meenakshi Balasubramanian, an activist with Disability Rights Alliance (DRA) in the city.
“Apart from battery-operated vehicles at major stations – not all stations — and lifts and escalators, there is no mention of facilities for us. Also, battery-operated vehicles are not a new initiative, they already exist at some stations,” she said.
Disability activists across the board are disappointed with the budget, which they say, has not taken into consideration any of their demands, a list of which was submitted to the Railways Ministry in June.
The list included the constitution of a technical committee to focus on developing accessibility in railway infrastructure, budgetary allocations for maintenance of facilities for the disabled, and training and sensitisation of railway employees, among others.
In an email, A. Muralidharan, secretary, National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, pointed out that stations were not disabled-friendly. Ramps and elevators instead of escalators, non-slippery floors, tactile marking and Braille signage should be provided as part of a universal design for accessibility, he wrote.
Smitha Sadasivan, also of the DRA, said even the coach meant for the disabled is not accessible, as entering involves climbing a few steps. “And what about safety for the disabled,” asked T.M.N. Deepak, another activist. “ We had specifically asked for CCTV cameras to be installed in the coaches for the disabled, to ensure they are not misused by other passengers and people with disabilities, especially women, are safe. But even this has not been adhered to,” he said.