Pune's quest to build accessible, pedestrian-friendly roads for all hits bureaucratic potholes

The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) claims that it is trying to make all major roads in the city pedestrian-friendly as well as follow universal accessibility norms.

This is to ensure that people with physical disabilities can access pavements freely and safely.

However, all this sounds better on paper than practice as none of the officials involved are working together.

To make sure there are no barriers on the pavements to make it easy for visually impaired people, the PMC asked the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL) to shift numerous electricity distribution point (DP) boxes that come in the way.

However, the MSEDCL has put the responsibility on the PMC to provide the land to shift these DPs onto.

Meanwhile a local unit of the National Association for the Blind has said that PMC's efforts to install special tactile tiles on footpaths are not enough as there are many factors that go into ensuring universal accessibility.

The tactile tiles aid visually challenged persons via embossed lines that indicate direction. There are five footpaths that are being renovated at the moment. However there are many issues here as well.

One is the number of encroachments, while the other is heavy DPs embedded by MSEDCL in these pavements.

Other disability groups have also voiced their concerns.

People with mobility impairments say that the height of some pavements have increased by a foot, which increases the risk of accidents. There are no indicators or slopes either to mark where pavements end and roads begin for people with visual impairments. There is no indication for when chowks with traffic lights are approaching.

Unless these parameters are achieved, the path to building pedestrian-friendly for all citizens is incomplete.

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