Disabled-unfriendly quarantine centre, no info – fresh nightmare for Ankit Agarwal in India
Disabled Indian student Ankit Agarwal made headlines when he put his wheelchair up for sale in a desperate effort to raise funds for tickets to come home. His appeals finally worked, and Ankit is back but the ordeal is far from over, he tells NewzHook.
Two days after he landed in India with his mother, Ankit Agarwal has not had a bath and limits his visits to the toilet to three a day. This is because the quarantine centre in Navsari, Gujarat, where he has been put up is inaccessible and disabled-unfriendly.
For starters Ankit cannot enter the bathroom in his wheelchair. This means he is forced to depend on his 53-year-old mother to carry him to the toilet.
Ankit has muscular dystrophy, uses wheelchair
Ankit made headlines when he put his wheelchair up for sale to raise funds to buy tickets for himself and his mother to come back to India. This is even though he is totally dependent on his wheelchair as a person with muscular dystrophy.
Ankit was scheduled to fly out of London in March when his master’s programme ended but was stranded due to the COVID-19 lockdown. His appeals to the Indian High Commission and Air India for assistance while boarding was ignored. What got their attention was his social media post and newspaper reports and he flew out with his mom Suman Agarwal earlier this week. On board they were given the aisle wheelchair and other assistance asked for. After landing in Ahmedabad it was a different story altogether.
Once we got out of the airport, there was no accessibility. There was a bus to take us from the airport to the quarantine centre, but it was not wheelchair accessible and I had to pay some airport staffers to help me board. While getting off the bus at Navsari, three passengers were kind enough to come forward. People are also scared to help due to the virus scare. – Ankit Agarwal, Disabled student
No provisions for disabled passengers at quarantine
Throughout the nine-hour journey from Ahmedabad to Navsari no provisions for food or water were made. “We were hungry and tired, but no food or water was offered”, says Ankit’s mother Suman. “We got food at 6 pm after settling into the hotel. Other passengers were forced to get off the bus and buy water which is so risky”.
Ankit and his mother are staying in a room on the fourth floor. “There are no rooms on the ground floor and the lift does not accommodate my wheelchair”, adds Ankit. “The wheelchair does not even enter the bathroom in my hotel room and my mom has to carry me inside, so I make sure I don’t visit the toilet more than three times a day. I cannot have a bath either. I have raised this issue with the team that comes for daily thermal screenings, but they are unable to do anything about it”.
There is also no clarity about how long they must stay at the facility. “Initially we were told 14 days but now we are hearing it’s seven”, says Ankit. “There is no information available about how we will go to our home”.
For Ankit, the experience has emphasised just how deep and enduring the accessibility challenges in India are. He sounds resigned when he says, “The fact is that no one here has any understanding of what accessibility is. I have lived with this for a long time and now believe that accessibility is just not possible in India. This is the fact”.
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