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Updated: June 21, 2013 12:51 IST

How disabled-friendly are sabhas?

R. Sujatha
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With difficulty: An elderly person makes his way up the steps of an auditorium in Chennai recently. Photo: K. Pichumani
The Hindu
With difficulty: An elderly person makes his way up the steps of an auditorium in Chennai recently. Photo: K. Pichumani

Year after year during the music season, not just persons with disability, even the elderly shuffle as they climb stairs of an auditorium. A little attention to detail will help, they say.

All it takes is to watch the enormous effort that a person with disability makes while entering the sabha, says musician and art critic H. Ramakrishnan. “Once I had to climb the stairs to reach the mini hall of The Music Academy. The then president T.T. Vasu, who noticed my struggle, said he would install an elevator. He kept his word. The first person to use it was Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer,” he recalled. “It is not enough to build ramps and install lifts. Disabled persons cannot use the toilets,” he added.

Wheelchair-user R. Sridhar is a regular rasika at many sabhas. He felt the Infosys Hall on Bazullah Road, T. Nagar, was easily accessible. “These facilities are not just for the disabled. Even the aged need ramps, hand rails and lifts. In Singapore, the first and second rows are reserved for persons using wheelchairs. They also have a special entrance.”

Mridangam artist Erode K.S. Nagaraj said, “I crawl up the stairs because of my disability. I use a foldable wheelchair, but I cannot use it in several places. Even after 15 years of performing in sabhas I notice little change.” A person with physical disability, his repeated requests to sabhas have elicited little response. “Such insensitivity reminds us constantly of our disability. We have sponsorship for the events. Why not have a bank or a company sponsor a ramp and a lift?” suggested Mr. Nagaraj. Organisations working with persons with disability say a public interest litigation seeking barrier-free environment has been filed in the court.

B. Meenakshi, Assistant Coordinator, Disability Registration Unit, South, Vidya Sagar, said, “Even the interim relief granted by the PIL to make accessible public places has not helped much.”

Last year, the president of Federation of City Sabhas and Secretary of Narada Gana Sabha R.Krishnaswami had said that efforts would be made to ensure that the sabha can be accessed.

“Since then said the sabhas are providing ramps wherever possible, but some places are not convenient. The Narada Gana Sabha has provided ramps this year,” he said.

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