“Most planned city in India” forgotten its disabled population

Asia-Pacific, April 25 2011

Chandigarh, India: Life is not easy for disabled people in Chandigarh, moreso if they plan to move around the city as they face several roadblocks everywhere.

Whether it is enjoying the beauty of the parks or going out for shopping or simply commuting on their own, disabled people find it difficult to carry out even these “routine” activities. The “most planned city” seems to have forgotten this section of society.

“Every time a disabled person steps out of his home, he is reminded of his disability. The Persons With Disability Act-1995 clearly states that all public places should be disabled-friendly but its implementation is not more than one per cent in city beautiful,” said Gurbir Singh Kochhar, president of Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Though proper education has made these people independent, they feel demoralised when they cannot climb stairs in a market, cross a road or access public transportation without help.

Most of the parks in the city have entrances which are guarded by revolving or narrow iron gates that keep stray animals at bay, and also the wheelchair users.

“In countries like the US, a handicapped person can roam around like a normal human being and that too alone. But in a city like Chandigarh, which can match international standards, a physically-disabled person cannot go out alone,” said Gurbir Singh, who himself is suffering from muscular dystrophy.

In major markets of the city, one has to climb stairs to reach the showrooms. Post offices in almost all sectors also paint a similar picture.

Even if there are parks with entrances meant for people who move on wheelchairs — as in Sector 11 — the gates are either locked or there is only one entrance. This forces the disabled to take the longer route.

Harmesh Kumar, general secretary of the Physically Handicapped Association in Chandigarh, said 80 per cent disabled commuted with the help of a modified scooter. “It is not possible to move around the city in public transportation. It is a huge risk,” he said.

He added that roads should also be made user-friendly for disabled people. Though there is a ramp outside the British Library at Sector 8 for wheelchairs,

it is usually blocked by cars that have been parked in front of the ramp.

Though last year, the CTU had introduced low floor buses with inbuilt ramps, not many people are aware about these and still commute by ordinary buses. This creates problems as they cannot carry their wheelchairs everywhere and sometimes, have to crawl on the road to reach the buses. The struggle to reach the bus stop from their homes is a different story altogether.

Vinod Kumar, who cannot move his legs, is studying at the Chandigarh College of Engineering Technology at Sector 26. “I feel unprivileged because I cannot visit restaurants and other places meant for recreational activities as there are no ramps. I want to ask the Administration why cannot they they make every place accessible to people like us? Don’t we have the right to enjoy life?” Vinod asked.

When contacted, UT Social Welfare Department Director Varsha Khangwal said: “There is an Access Audit Committee which sends reports to the concerned departments to look into the architectural changes that can be made in the buildings to make them disabled-friendly. Most new buildings are equipped with provisions for disabled people, but to do the same in older buildings is a difficult proposition.”

Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/

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