If you are able to walk and see and are a determined pedestrian, Chennai’s apology for footpaths might still be negotiable. However, for those with disabilities, footpaths such as these are best avoided.

“For a disabled person, using the pavements in Chennai is a nightmarish experience,” says Rajiv Ranjan, member, Disability Rights Alliance (DRA).

(Click to view related video by DRA)

“Using pavements in Chennai is not easy for anyone – both for people without, and those with disabilities,” says T.A.P. Varadakutty, president, Tamil Nadu Udavikarm Association for the Welfare of the Differently Abled. “But for people like me, with crutches or people on wheelchairs, it is especially so.”

Where pavements do exist in Chennai, they are beset with three broad kinds of issues: height, cuts and hurdles, he says. And it is these three that make pavements unusable for disabled persons, according to him.

Height is the primary issue: in some areas, one has to do a pole vault to actually climb on to the pavement. “Technically, there should be a gentle incline to facilitate wheelchair users to wheel themselves up on to the pavements. Those with crutches also find it easy to mount the pavement if this facility is provided. But no one even thinks of such things when laying a pavement in this city: it is not part of the plan,” Mr. Varadakutty says.

Hurdles are physical objects placed in the way, hindering easy passage. In Chennai they take the form of shops, construction debris, vehicles, lamppost bases and transformers. “When space is limited, navigation is already a problem. For a wheelchair user, it is not possible at all,” Mr. Varadakutty says. His pet peeve is the stretch in Pondy Bazaar, T. Nagar, which he claims is completely inaccessible for disabled users.

Pavements where tiles are turned up, or have come loose, or are missing, are truly treacherous. “Those with crutches can easily fall or slip and injure themselves,” says Meenakshi B., member, DRA. A number of friends, with movement disorders, and blindness (without markers to guide them) have had such falls and been hurt badly, she says.

But forget disability for a moment. Anyone with a temporary sprain or fracture, and is limping, or even a senior citizen, finds it difficult to use footpaths. “Disability is a condition. Anyone can have it at any time. Just ensure that your footpaths follow the guidelines of universal design, make them all accessible, and barrier-free, all the time,” Mr. Varadakutty says.

Talk Back

We invite readers to participate in this campaign. You can email pictures of bad pavements (size not more than 1.5 MB) to myright@thehindu.co.in

Please send a picture of yourself.

In the email, please give your name, contact information, location of the pavement, description of the issue and action required.

Your pictures will be posted on www.facebook.com/chennaicentral and will also be considered for publication in the newspaper.

Website: http://thne.ws/mychennai

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