Madurai

Most city buses are not disabled-friendly

Ramps will ramp up their use of public transport

MADURAI

K. Rani, a differently abled woman, who sells flowers to 20 houses after procuring them from Mattuthavani, says that she has never found public transport a comfortable option. Ms. Rani says that on several occasions, as a college student, she has made futile attempts to get into buses without a ramp.

“The steps are either too high or too low for us to balance, raise our bodies and heave ourselves into the bus. On several occasions, I have had to let go of the bus ahead of me and wait for one with a fairly comfortable footboard to arrive,” she says.

Several other differently abled persons like Ms. Rani say that they have not been able to travel by affordable public transport even though it is their right. With a few or no provision made in buses by the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation for people like them, they wonder if they will ever have a hold over public spaces. Inclusivity evades them, they say.

Buses today do not display stickers indicating the special seat reserved for the differently abled. A bus heading to Arapalayam from Mattuthavani has leaks in the roof, making it difficult for travellers to peacefully reach their destination. The bus also does not have any ramps or a dedicated area for the differently abled to place their wheelchairs.

S. Raja, general secretary of Tamil Nadu Crawling Differently Abled Persons Federation, says that he has travelled in a local bus a total of 12 times only in his 39 years. “Buses here no ramp or escalator facilities here. It is impossible for people with wheelchairs to climb into a bus. There is no proper mechanism to haul us in,” he says.

An average differently abled person spends at least three times more than a person without disabilities for travel, he says. “We may have concessions to travel inside the State but we end up spending a sizeable amount for auto rides,” he says. Mr. Raja says that he spends only ₹200 to travel to Chennai and back but ends up spending at least ₹500 within the city on auto rickshaws.

P. Vijayalakshmi, who escorts her visually challenged sister R. Murugeswari and husband S. Ramiyyah, says that though there are seats allocated for the differently abled on buses, people do not accommodate them. “My visually challenged sister ends up standing in the bus, using her stick to navigate inside. They tend to be crowded, causing problems of thievery and harassment,” she says.

Mr. Raja says that bus floors often get wet and slippery during the rainy season, providing no grip for wheelchairs. According to Ms. Rani, bus drivers, on several occasions, have been unfriendly to those who cannot walk.

“They never make exceptions for a stop between bus stops. I have often cried to walk long distances because it is arduous,” she says.

Women crawlers particularly say that they cannot travel by bus because of their clothing restrictions. “We sit at home and do not travel,” N. Fathima.

A. Chandrasekaran, Managing Trustee, Madurai Group Living Foundation, says that special children or adults were not able to enter a bus because of public ridicule and apathy. “This is why our children never go by bus with parents. We are ridiculed and nobody cares to get up for them. The buses are uncomfortable too,” he says.

Many differently abled people say they are from low socio-economic background and end up spending a major portion of their income on travel. Mr. Chandrasekhar says that since the issue is barely discussed, it is not in public memory.

Ms. Vijayalakshmi says that the government must take efforts to proactively find differently abled, give them travel passes and help them renew it on an annual basis. To ensure that there is easy mobility, Mr. Raja says that ramps and escalators should be established at the earliest. “More differently abled people will definitely begin to use public transport,” he says. Ms. Rani says that sensitivity training should be provided to drivers and conductors.

A senior TNSTC official says that the Central government has mandated that 10% of buses should be operated with special ramp and escalator facilities in all divisions. “A trial run has been conducted in Chennai. It will soon happen in Madurai.”

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:47:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/most-city-buses-are-not-disabled-friendly/article28336194.ece

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