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Kerala state run buses gets thumbs up for bringing back facilities for wheelchair users

The Kerala Urban Road Transport Corporation (KURTC) had earlier removed facilities for wheelchair users inside their buses. After disability rights groups and activists raised complaints for almost a year, officials have brought back facilities to lock wheelchairs inside the buses along with introduction of wheelchair ramps as well. Wheelchair users in the state are now happy that they can travel independently without any hassles.

It has been almost a year since wheelchair users in Kerala has been demanding for accessibility in low-floor buses run by Kerala Urban Road Transport Corporation (KURTC). Reportedly, the buses came with wheelchair ramps and facilities to lock wheelchairs. But it was removed a few months back and new seats were added. Officials stated that it was due to heavy rush in buses during peak hours. Removal of these exclusive spaces to keep wheelchairs had caused much inconvenience to passengers. Wheelchair users in the state are now relived after all the facilities have been brought back.

In one of the incidents, wheelchair of a student was accidentally thrown off from a moving bus due to lack of facilities to lock it. All these had angered members from the disabled community who have been protesting against the injustice shown to them. In fact, Kerala Transport Minister AK Saseendran, after hearing the grievances, had promised speedy action. Many NGO's and welfare organisations for people with disabilities including the All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation (AKWRF) has been protesting for the cause. They are all thrilled that justice has been given.

Rajeev Palluruthy, Secreatry, AKWRF, says that their efforts have finally been paid off.

It has been over a year since we have been protesting against removal of facilities for wheelchair users. We even gave a petition to KURTC officials and the state minister. Now, they have brought back facilities and we are glad that justice has been served. Many wheelchair users will now be able to travel independently. MLA George Fernandez has stood by us throughout and helped us make this a reality. He worked closely with us-Rajeev Palluruthy, Secretary. AKWRF.

KURTC is the only government run transport facility that has wheelchair facilities in it. The buses were introduced in Kerala in collaboration with the central government. Wheelchair users from across the state point out various incidents where they struggled to travel in these buses.

For instance, Mohammad Rabeeh, a wheelchair user and his friends had to chase a bus and make the driver stop it so that Rabeeh could board the bus. Once he boarded the bus, passengers abused him saying that he caused them inconvenience. "The state government is being insensitive to our requirements. Having wheelchair facilities in public transport is our right. Earlier, when we had the facilities, travelling was much easier. There are many wheelchair users who commute to different parts of the state in these low floor buses for studying and even work. Now, travelling has become a nightmare to us. We have given complaint to ministers and other officials. But our complaints go unheard. Six new seats are installed at places which are for wheelchair users. How do they expect us to travel in the buses?", Rabeeh had commented earlier.

Also Read: Kerala government's upcoming inclusive university gets thumbs up from disability rights groups

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