Each time Meenu Maini (42) has to board a train, she requires help from at least three to four people to lift her wheelchair and somehow push it through the narrow doors of a coach. Finding way to the toilet and using it as a physically disabled person is yet another challenge.
“As a woman confined to a wheelchair, you can imagine how embarrassing it can be to ask for help — mostly from men — to board a train and reach my seat. The door is narrow and the first step too high for even those without wheelchairs. Nothing has been done to make it more accessible for us (physically disabled persons),” she said.
Maini was among several disabled people from across 12 states and 21 organisations who were in Delhi on Tuesday to push for “accessible and affordable railways.” The agitators, under the banner of National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), staged a protest at Parliament Street. Later a delegation, accompanied by CPM MP
M B Rajesh, also met Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and submitted a memorandum.
“In 2015, this government had announced that several stations will be made fully accessible. We’ve entered 2018, but nothing has happened. Not a single railway station in the country is fully accessible till date,” said Muralidharan, NPRD general secretary.
“There are neither ramps nor battery cars to approach coaches reserved for the disabled. The coach is often used by others, who obstruct the entry and exit. The ticket counters are too high for us to reach and we feel humiliated when people have to lift us up,” he said.
Suresh Kumar (35) from Haryana’s Jind, whose right leg is amputated, said he hardly ever got the lower berth while booking. The protest was also attended by the visually impaired and hearing impaired activists.
Among other things, the NPRD has demanded installation of ramps and elevators, a universal design keeping in mind all kinds of accessibility, tactile marking on platforms to guide blind persons and Braille-embossed signage in coaches.
“Railways have been providing concessions to certain categories of disabled persons in Mail and Express trains, which now has been extended to Rajdhani & Shatabdi. But the concession is not provided in local and passenger trains, the Garib Rath and Suvidha trains. We request that concessions be provided on all trains,” the NPRD has said in its memorandum to Goyal.