Chennai

A resident’s fight to make her apartment accessible

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It took two years for Swarnalatha to persuade the association to construct ramps connecting all blocks and common areas at the complex

In 2012, when J. Swarnalatha relocated to Coimbatore with her family she never thought the condition she was diagnosed with — Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis — would slowly leave her inmobile. Initially, she could walk a bit, managing to do so, with some help. But her condition got worse and the helper found it difficult to lift the wheelchair every time she had to cross a barrier.

Instead of restricting her mobility, Swarnaltha decided to forge a new path for herself and others like her.

Swarnalatha started to push Royal Sheraton Apartment Association to construct ramps at its the four-storey apartment complex.

Persuading the Association to do so was a huge challenge. Swarnalatha and her husband Guruprasad T.S. were only tenants and the apartment was not going to take them seriously. There were no other persons with disabilities to rally around her.

“Unless you went through the problem, you are not interested. I had to launch a fight to show the community that having ramps was a basic right for a person with disability,” says Swarnalatha.

Thanks to her work for persons with disabilities under the banner of Swarga Foundation in 2014, her cause started getting noticed. The registered charitable trust supports differently-abled people with neuromuscular disorders through psychological counselling, medical assistance and awareness programmes.

“It took me nearly two years of repeated requests and multiple meetings to persuade the association to construct ramps in my block,” says Swarnalatha. Only one step had to be inclined to make a provision for a wheelchair to move.

That was a small but a big step towards making her block accessible.

“I later noticed that there many were others including senior citizens and children who benefited from the construction of the ramp,” says Swarnalatha. She got the Association to make similar modifications at the four other blocks in the community. Later, provision was made at the pathway leading to the swimming pool and at the temple of the gated complex.

Through Swarga Foundation, the NGO has been instrumental in ensuring many other interventions to ensure access in public places.

Another apartment complex in the city also carried out modifications, following the Foundation’s intervention.

“A person with mobility problem had to be carried as a fleet of stairs came as a barrier for the wheelchair to move. We went as a team and asked the committee members of the apartment to construct ramps,” she says.

Some apartments and workplaces have ramps for the disabled but they are not user-friendly.

“Ramps must be built as per accessibility standards, if the gradient is wrong then it’s difficult for the wheelchairs to be moved,” she adds.

Hand rails, parking bays and anti-skid tiles are a few things that apartment complexes must improvise on to show their support for disability-inclusion.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 9:44:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-residents-fight-to-make-her-apartment-accessible/article30123488.ece

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