Accessibility December 15, 2020
Madras High Court slams TN transport department for failing to buy disabled friendly buses
Madras High Court recently slammed the Tamil Nadu State Transport Department for failing to provide disabled friendly buses. Bench of justices have asked the department to come up with a speedy solution or face contempt of court.
Satish Kumar, a wheelchair user from Chennai works in a private firm in the city. Satish is unable to take a bus which is the easiest and fastest mode of transport to reach office. The reason, inaccessibility in public transport. For thousands of people like Satish who have mobility issues, one of the biggest hitch to stepping outdoors is not just lack of disabled friendly public places but inaccessible public transport too. Last week, Madras high court criticized state transport department for the same reason. The court said that they would be compelled to initiate contempt proceedings if state transport department does not address problem faced by people with disabilities.
Highlighting plight of disabled people
Over years, public interest litigations were filed in the court regarding need for making buses accessible. So in a 2016 mandate, the high court stated that all buses that state transport department procures must be made disabled friendly from thereafter. But all the 4817 new buses brought by the state after that do not have any facilities for disabled people. Though the transport department stated that some buses had lift facilities and so on, people from the disabled community rubbished the claims.
While criticizing the state, court pointed out that the RPWD Act, 2016 has clearly not been implemented. Though state assured that ten percent of buses that they procure from hereon will be disabled friendly, bench of justices M Sathyanarayanan and R Hemalatha said that the department needs to have a social obligation towards people with disabilities.
A video conference was held as per directions of the court in which the Chief Secretary and the State Transport Secretary participated. The court has asked concerned departments to arrive at a solution before the next hearing on 26 February or will have to face contempt of court.
Disabled community speaks
Satish says that disability rights activists have filed cases and the matter has been highlighted for over a decade now. “I do not feel any action will be initiated this time too. Government does not follow rules either. They purchased so many buses and none are accessible for disabled people. Not just people with mobility issues, but even visually impaired are also suffering to commute. All we want are some basic facilities and the state transport department has failed in providing that”, he says.
Prince Durairaj from Coimbatore has mobility issues. A disability rights advocate Prince says that they had held an event for para sports people on International disabilities day. Participants from various parts of the state found it hard to get to Coimbatore in buses due to accessibility issues. “The many promises and assurances by government are never implemented. It is unfortunate that an entire community has to face the wrath”, he says.
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