Differently-abled continue to struggle for wheelchair-friendly public transportation

Coimbatore: Even as the government is taking steps to make society more inclusive for the differently-abled people through various schemes and projects, basic methods of transportation continue to stay anti-disabled.
As per the 2011 census, there are over 2.87 lakh people with movement disability in Tamil Nadu. “But the differently-abled still can not access even a single bus other than the one operated by Swarga Foundation in Coimbatore. Railway stations have electric cars for the differently-abled, but not bus terminals,” said disability rights activist Lalith Kumar Natrajan.

“What is the point of providing fare concession in trains and buses when we struggle to enter them? Bus conductors would not even allow a differently-able person with a wheelchair to enter the bus. Wheelchairs are considered as luggage and you have to pay for them. What’s more, they are lodged separately,” he told TOI.

To make matters worse, only foldable wheelchairs are allowed inside buses, said S Namburajan with the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC). “Most of us, especially those from rural areas, can not afford to buy such wheelchairs,” he said.

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“To make public transportation disabled-friendly using technology, India, about a decade ago, had ratified a pact with the United Nations. But it has not been implemented till date. This year, the Central government allocated only Rs 100crore for the welfare of the disabled in the entire country. As a result, most of the projects are stuck in the middle due to fund crunch. It is our fundamental right to live like any other person, but the government does not share the sentiment,” Namburajan further.

The differently-abled people too have social life and they should be treated with dignity, said managing trustee of Swarga Foundation J Swarnalatha. “Most of the people do not step out of their house due to lack of support.”

The foundation had launched a disabled-friendly bus in the city, that can accommodate six people, about a year ago. It has a foldable ramp and disabled-friendly toilets. On the occasion of the 71st Independence Day, the bus service will be free this month.

“While there is adequate awareness about intellectual-disability, a lot needs to be done to create awareness about movement disability,” Swarnalatha further.

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