Accessibility August 23, 2020
Chennai Metro stations not disabled-friendly, High Court bench issues notice
The Madras High Court has issued a notice to the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (Tamil Nadu) and Chennai Metro Rail Limited after a PIL filed by disability rights activist Vaishnavi Jayakumar’s highlighted that metro stations in the city have failed to meet the guidelines under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.
Lack of adequate signage, inaccessible automatic ticketing systems and toilets – Chennai metro stations are far from disabled-friendly. They violate Section 41 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 which provides for comprehensive accessibility in all modes of transport including metro rail systems.
The gaps as well as solutions were highlighted in a comprehensive audit by NGO Samarthyam in 2016 which looked at seven metro stations in Chennai as part of the Accessible India Campaign. All seven stations were found to be non compliant.
Here are some of the findings and recommendations made:
- No ramp or lift access. Lack of tactile pavers make the entrance inaccessible to visually impaired people. The report recommends that tactile pavers be put inside the station to guide disabled passengers safely.
- Ramps and landing surfaces should be slip resistant/ anti-skid and grooves more than 10mm should be avoided.
- Tactile pavers should be provided at the beginning and end of ramp at a distance of 300mm.
- Ramps must have handrails on both sides and at two levels. Should be provided on all steps including those at platforms and ramps on both sides. Should be circular in section and in bright colours.
- Directional arrows should be provided at strategic location on ramps.
- Steps with uniform risers of 150mm maximum height.
- No tactile maps near enquiry counters.
- No ticket counters earmarked for disabled people. A counter should be set aside with leg space provided and turning space between bars for wheelchairs of 1200mm. Mike systems and induction loop unit to be provided.
There are several other recommendations given as well regarding washrooms, toilets as well as platforms.
The findings of the report were brought to the attention of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (Tamil Nadu) as well as the Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL). The Madras High Court took note the matter following which CMRL made statements that it would address these gaps.
However, that has not translated into action. Members of the Disability Rights Alliance India say the CMRL has not been responsive to its attempts to ensure that the stations are built in accordance with the Harmonised Guidelines and RPWD Act guidelines. The result is that all 32 metro stations built so far are non compliant.
Disability rights activist Vaishnavi Jayakumar has filed a petition in the Madras High Court asking for the stations to be made compliant. She has also named both the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (Tamil Nadu) and CMRL as first and second respondents.
The violation of the law by the second respondent ought to have been punished and the first respondent ought to have taken action to ensure proper implementation of the law. The failure of the respondents to act in accordance with the law has resulted in grave prejudice to the persons with disability. – Vaishnavi Jayakumar, Disability rights activist
The lack of action taken by the authorities, says Jayakumar in her petition, left her with no choice but to approach the High Court.
The court has given the respondents three weeks time to respond.