Chennai

Lack of empathy a heavy cross to bear for disabled

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For the disabled, the deepest cut is the lack of empathy.

In 2012, following a Madras High Court intervention, ten MTC buses were fitted with special hydraulic lifts to allow wheelchairs. But these are not in use today. The official reason: other passengers complained that it delayed the bus at stops.

According to Amba Salelkar, of Inclusive Planet, there is still a lack of sensitivity towards the needs of the disabled. “There are restrooms for the disabled in malls, but they are common for both men and women.” Several families with disabled persons don’t go to movies and malls for this reason. 

Recently, when a group of disabled persons went to meet with a minister, they found his office neither had a ramp nor an elevator. The minister insisted that only those who could use the stairs should attend, a group representative said.

Smitha Sadasivan, of the Disabilities Rights Alliance, says: “It is difficult for a wheelchair-bound person to meet officials at government buildings. Most do not have ramps or disabled-friendly restrooms.”

The most common official response for the lack of facilities can be confounding: “heritage buildings should not be modified”.

Fresh approach

The Chennai Corporation, of late, has been talking about making its pedestrian facilities accessible to all. There are already 20 footpaths where the civic body has incorporated suggestions from the disabled. Audits were carried out on footpaths on Pantheon Road and Police Commissioner Road in Egmore.

Vikram Kapur, Corporation commissioner, said, “We increased the space between bollards on some pavements so there is enough space for manoeuvring wheelchairs.” One suggestion the civic body is considering is the use of tactile tiles that would alert the visually-challenged of a platform’s edge.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 1:57:34 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/lack-of-empathy-a-heavy-cross-to-bear-for-disabled/article6229292.ece

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