Railways’ slammed for inaccessibility of stations for wheelchair users
Members from the disabled community point out that railway stations across India still remains inaccessible for wheelchair users. There are no wheelchair ramps or lifts in most of the prominent railway stations. In spite of repeated requests, officials have failed in ensuring a barrier-free Indian railways.
Trains are one of the most affordable and fastest mediums of transport for people in India. But Indian railways, which claims to be one of the largest in the world, still remains inaccessible for wheelchair users. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched ‘Accessible India’ that assured accessible public spaces including railway stations. Till date, all the railway stations across the country remain inaccessible for wheelchair users. They are unable to travel independently. The railways being insensitive towards needs and requirements of wheelchair users is clearly a violation of the law. Members from the disabled community are demanding justice and need for speedy action.
Barriers at many levels for disabled
Jisha MR is a wheelchair user from Kerala. An artist, Jisha has to often travel to different parts of the state to exhibit her works. In spite of having financial constraints, she is forced to take a cab now due to inaccessibility at railway stations.
I have travelled many times in trains and it is truly a nightmare for me. Till date, I have not come across any railway station with a decent wheelchair ramp. I cannot even imagine using the toilets because they are not accessible at all. A few of us have tried to talk to officials at railway stations. But they become restless and angry when you speak to them about inaccessibility. There are no lifts or escalators as well. I’am unable to cross platforms with my wheelchair. – Jisha MR, Wheelchair user
This is not an isolated incident. Sindhu Sudevan, a wheelchair user from Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital of Kerala says, “In spite of repeated requests, officials turn their heads away towards needs of wheelchair users. They say that wheelchair users hardly travel. So they do not want to waste time and resources trying to make railway stations accessible for us”.
Even today, railway stations in cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Kochi still remains inaccessible for wheelchair users.
Last 3 December, on International Disabilities Day, the Indian railways had come up with an updated new circular on the many assurances for disabled people for accessible and barrier-free travel. The ‘Accessible India’ campaign never worked out. Some NGO’s and private companies are now stepping forward to do their bit to make railways accessible for disabled people. Amongst them is Bengaluru based Anuprayaas. Though they primarily work on making railway stations accessible for visually impaired people, ‘Anuprayaas’ hopes they can do their bit for wheelchair users too very soon.
“We still have a long way to go when it comes to creating accessible and barrier-free railway stations. I have been working in this sector for over a decade now”, says says Panjam Cajla, Founder, Anuprayaas. “The good thing is that officials are now becoming more aware about needs and requirements of disabled people. They are open to change. They appreciate the changes that you try to introduce. Most railway stations are also doing accessibility audits. So I believe barrier-free railway stations are going to be a reality soon”.
Members from the disabled community hope that the Indian Railways will step up and work towards creating accessible railway stations soon. That way, more wheelchair users can travel independently.