Crucial meet highlights barriers in the way of accessible road transport for disabled people in India
The freedom to travel independently is something that matters to all, whether you have a disability or not. In India, be it public transport or private vehicles, disabled people face many barriers when it comes to independent travel and mobility.
Barriers that were brought up at an important meeting on accessible road transport organised by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in New Delhi.
It was not just the problems that were under focus, but also solutions. Some of them included making public transport friendly for disabled people, making the norms for modifying private vehicles for disabled people easier, as well as encouraging vehicle makers to build modified vehicles.
Little has been done to make transport and civic infrastructure friendly for disabled people in India. The biggest loophole, according to the experts present, was the lack of uniformity in policies, plans and infrastructure.
Among the experts present was Meenu Bhambhani, who heads corporate social responsibility at IT services company, Mphasis. She pointed out how she had to renew her driving license every five years just because she has a disability. On the other hand, her husband has to do it just once in 20 years, because he is not a disabled person.
Some of the other barriers she faces is that she cannot drive any other vehicle besides her own, even if it is the same make. And to make matters worse, she can only drive in her city as her license is not valid anywhere else.
Pradeep Raj, general secretary of Association for Disabled People, highlighted how people with orthopaedic disabilities face many problem in getting a driving licence. While a person with a disability in one leg may still be able to get a license, people with a disability in both legs find it almost next to impossible.
Many other issues like claiming excise relief and the running around during vehicle registration were highlighted.
There is also a lack of coordination between the Centre and the states when it comes to creating a barrier-free environment. Agencies which are implementing projects and providing approvals are usually not on the same page and there are gaps in law and policy.
Some of the speakers also had suggestions for taxi aggregators, Ola and Uber. Among them was hat drivers should send text messages to people with who are deaf and hard of hearing instead of calling. There was also a demand made for greater sensitisation of their drivers.