We all have been witness to the vulnerability of travelers with disabilities in secluded Railways Coaches for the Disabled as well as the chaos and disorderliness in these coaches. I had myself been witness to few such incidents. Thus we feel, it would not be in the fitness of things to continue pushing for special coaches for the disabled; we have heard attendants being pushed out saying that they are non-disabled and hence should travel in other compartments; we have seen highhandedness of Railway Protection Force officials, Police and paramilitary officials forcefully gaining entry in to special coaches for the disabled and even pushing non-disabled passengers in the special coaches after charging some amount!
In absence of strict monitoring mechanisms, rail coaches meant for
disabled are often misused by non-disabled passengers.
Copyrighted Picture @SCVashishth
We have also heard incidents of visually impaired passengers being allotted special coach, who otherwise can travel in any of the general coaches! On top of it, the coach being touted as "Coach for the Disabled" has no provision of ramp or level entry hence is literally inaccessible.
The Persons with Disabilities Act mandates making the railways barrier free and not creating secluded special coaches. The objective is to mainstream rather than excluding them. Therefore, if persons with disabilities of this country are rejecting this announcement, it should be respected.
The announcement by Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi on Wednesday on provision of special coaches for the differently abled people has not found favour with a section of them.
The special coach for disabled is a joke played on 70 millions disabled
people of India! The coach is neither accessible nor safe for people
and is often added either close to Engine or at the tail of train!
Copyrighted Picture @SCVashishth
“We expect the government to have a universal design for coaches, which would be accessible for all with furnished washrooms, considering the needs of the differently abled people,” said Sminu Jindal, managing director of Jindal Saw and the chairperson of Svayam, a charitable trust for differently abled people. Ms. Jindal is herself a differently abled person.
“We have been working hard to provide equality and dignity to all, including the elderly and the disabled, and this step goes in the opposite direction discriminating the disabled from the rest. This renders the community more vulnerable, as it does not allow [their] joining the mainstream and restricts them from travelling on general coaches,” she said.
Further, the plan to build escalators would not help the differently abled, she said and requested the Minister to provide for ramps and elevators which would help everyone.
“The announcement on introduction of special coaches for disabled friendly is not a welcome step. We expect the government to have a universal design/coaches which would be accessible for all with furnished accessible washrooms, considering the needs for differently abled people... This step goes in the opposite direction which discriminates the disabled from the rest. This is more vulnerable for the community, as it does not allow mainstreaming and restricts disabled from travelling on general coaches,” said chairperson Sminu Jindal, Svayam, an initiative of Sminu Jindal Charitable Trust.
“Announcement of building escalators, will not come in aid of differently-abled people. We would request the minister to alongside build ramps and elevators which would help all,” she said.