Metro not inclusive enough, says access audit

It gauges how accessible the stations, platforms, and trains are for people with disabilities

July 04, 2015 12:00 am | Updated November 16, 2021 05:24 pm IST - CHENNAI

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 03/07/2015: Disability Rights Alliance conducted access audit at CMRL in Chennai on July 03, 2015.Photo: M. Vedhan

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 03/07/2015: Disability Rights Alliance conducted access audit at CMRL in Chennai on July 03, 2015.Photo: M. Vedhan

For Smitha Sadasivan, getting into the Chennai Metro Rail train at Alandur station was next to impossible.

Her wheelchair got stuck in the gap between the platform and the rake and because the two were not even, she needed help to board. The doors stay open for just 30 seconds and it is simply not enough for people with disabilities to embark,” she said.

Ms. Sadasivan, along with other members of the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA), conducted an access audit of the newly opened Metro Rail services on Friday, to gauge how accessible the stations, platforms, and trains were for people with disabilities.

From the time they entered, the team encountered issues. “There is no separate parking for motorcycles of people with disabilities,” said Deepak Nathan, another activist. The ticket counters were too high for some in wheelchairs to reach them, as was the machines to scan the tokens. The floor was slippery too, making it difficult for those with crutches.

“At the customer-care kiosk, they do not know which end of the train the coaches for people with disabilities are located. This makes it difficult for us,” B. Meenakshi said.

The toilet for people with disabilities at the Alandur station had several problems. One of the entrances was too narrow for a wheelchair to get through; the doors were heavy; there were only two grab bars inside; and the toilet seat and the flush were too high for wheelchair users to reach. Also, the tactile path on the floors did not lead to the toilet.

Inside the lift, the call button was very high, Ms. Sadasivan said. On the platform, the activists found that there was no kiosk to assist them in locating the coaches or to help them board the train. The tactile path again, did not lead to the coach. Signage was unclear, and the announcer’s voice could barely be heard.

Another issue was sign language. “When I tried to communicate with officials near the platform in sign language, none of them understood. I believe they have had some training in this, but the signs they used were unclear,” Ms. Sadasivan said.

Gautam Bharadwaj, assistant manager and architect, Chennai Metro Rail Ltd., said the system would take some time to stabilise. “All the stations have been designed keeping in mind the needs of people with disabilities. However, certain operational facilities have to be considered. For instance, we will look at placing a small ramp on the platform for them to be able to board the trains. Also, there will be more emphasis on signage,” he said.

The gap between the platform and train was minimal, but the surfaces being level also depended on the weight of the coach, N.K. Kumar, chief general manager (transport planning), said. Mr. Kumar said: “This is a learning process for us. Any finishing issues will be taken up.”

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