International Day : Disabled Person

Access ‘denied’: City far from being disabled-friendly

Right of Persons with Disability Act, 2016, mandates all private, govt establishments to ensure barrier-free spaces for differently-abled

Access ‘denied’: City far from being disabled-friendly

Haphazard parking, barriers installed on roads leave little room for the physically challenged to move around in city markets. Photos: Vishal Kumar

Neha Saini

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, December 2

Infrastructural challenge for city’s people with disabilities remain unchanged despite the guidelines under the Right of Persons with Disability Act, 2016, that mandates all private and government institutions and establishments to ensure barrier-free spaces and services for differently-abled persons.

Several key governance and commercial buildings that disregard the accessibility for persons with disability, make it a major deterrent in providing social inclusivity. Be it public parks, buildings, transport, schools, public/ commercial spaces, all are far from being disabled-friendly.

Basic infrastructural and service facilities such as wheelchairs, elevated ramps and separate washrooms are all lacking when it comes to public offices.

The MC office though has a ramp facility for wheelchair access, the overall accessibility remains difficult for disabled. Apart from government offices, district court complex, police stations across the city are only wheelchair-friendly and lack in structural accessibility for the disabled.

A majority of schools and colleges in the city, too, have limited accessibility issues. While major government hospitals in the city are equipped with ramps for physically challenged, the absence of wheelchairs at entrance are a big problem for them. While the authorities often complain of patients who do not leave the chairs at the place from where they pick it and claim of no shortage of wheelchairs, patients often have a trouble finding one for them. Even in washrooms, sanitary fitting keeping in view the needs of the persons with disabilities are missing.

Public transport facilities, however, fare well in terms of providing accessibility for the disabled. SGRDI airport is well-equipped with basic facilities for the disabled and has separate washrooms. The metro bus stations across the city, too, are disabled friendly with ramps constructed for the disabled. At the elevated stations outside the bus stand and in the Mall Mandi area, the construction of lifts has been done to make it accessible. Railway station was recently renovated and lifts were made available on every platform. Escalators were installed on both sides of the exit and entry points with ramps for physically challenged passengers available on both entrances of the station.

Among institutions of higher education, Guru Nanak Dev University (GNDU) has been working to ensure proper facilities for the disabled on the complex. The premier educational institution has ramps, lifts, toilets and walking aides for the disabled in multiple departments. The proposal for constructing ramps, lifts, toilets in old buildings and one alike is under way.

Even cultural spaces in city fail to provide separate toilet facility with disabled-specifications, though they are all wheelchair-friendly and provide escorts to help disabled and elderly to access its space. City’s popular shopping hubs spare no thought for the accessibility for the disabled as narrowed lanes are further encroached upon, without any clear passage for wheelchairs.

Mayor Karamjit SinghRintu, while acknowledging that much needs to be done to facilitate accessibility for disabled, says plans for carrying out structural changes in new office buildings have got the go ahead. “The new MC and administrative buildings, too, have been re-structured to suit the disabled-friendly design with lifts and ramps in place. The old one has ramps and we do offer assistance in case it is required. We are carrying out renovation plans to incorporate accessibility for disabled in several public places including Company Bagh. Recently, we constructed 42 disabled-friendly community toilets in the city and more are in pipeline.”

Key public spaces that lack accessibility

  • The historic Company Bagh, considered the lungs of the city, is a place bustling with people throughout the day. Despite being a public park, it is not disabled-friendly as it fails to provide access for the disabled from three out of its four entrance points that have multiple pillars erected and iron railings and gates installed at entry/exit points.
  • Similarly, Heritage Street near the Golden Temple, too, has automated grills and pillars erected at several points that do not provide accessibility for wheelchairs. Even Gol Bagh, another major public park in city, doesn’t have any separate washroom facility and wheelchair access for the disabled. The washroom facility for disabled people are missing at Jallianwala Bagh and other tourist places as well.

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