Reply by CMRL to RTI petition outlines proposed facilities; receives mixed response

Will Metro stations and trains be barrier-free for persons with disabilities?

For the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA), Tamil Nadu, this question remains unanswered even after the Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) outlined its proposed disabled-friendly facilities in a reply to their Right to Information (RTI) petition.

DRA had sought information under RTI on accessible features at stations and on trains, support services and safety measures for persons with disabilities. Though most of their requirements submitted to CMRL last year have found a place in the proposal, they say it would have been better if their request to take a look at the project plan was fulfilled.

“It will be better if CMRL engaged licensed accessibility consultant and states compliance to specific quality standards. We want to work proactively with them,” Vaishnavi Jayakumar, a member of DRA, said.

Ms. Jayakumar and Sundar, another DRA member, visited the Metro station at CMBT for an access audit recently. DRA plans to do an access audit of Metro stations soon.

Smitha Sadasivam, the DRA member who had filed the RTI, said there should be parking spaces for tricycles and two-wheelers of persons with disabilities at all Metro stations, But CMRL has said all stations will not have parking spaces. It will only be providing dedicated parking spaces for persons with disabilities, subject to availability.

Ms. Sadasivam welcomed CMRL’s move to provide lifts at the street level in convenient locations to access platforms.

CMRL’s proposal to keep the toilets for persons with disabilities under lock-and-key, with the station controller in every station being in charge of them, has drawn disagreement. “This is practically impossible. What if we are travelling alone? It is not possible for us to go and search for the station controller,” Rajiv Rajan, member of DRA said.

Ms. Jayakumar said references to provisions like adequate seating arrangement in the RTI reply were bereft of details and needed to be substantiated with specific standards. Similarly, standards for ramps have not been specified.

CMRL, in its reply, said Metro stations will have well-lit passages, tactile tiles along passages and bumpy tiles to alert visually impaired persons when nearing the edge of platforms.

Lifts will have audio announcement and signs printed in braille to indicate floors, with elevator control buttons being placed at a convenient height.

Dedicated automated fare collection gates for persons with disabilities with a width to allow wheel chairs, braille keyboards on ticket vending machines, seating facilities on trains which are closest to the doors, two wheelchair parking areas in each driver car and signages within and outside stations are among the proposed facilities.

Ms. Sadasivam said, currently, the public transport system in the city was completely inaccessible and hence, they wanted to work with CMRL to make the Metro accessible to them.

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