For the disabled, a steep climb in Chennai’s suburban rail stations

The Indian state cares little for the disabled in the country. It does not do much even for normal, able-bodied invididuals to carry on with their lives, so what will it do for people with a handicap? Obviously, those running India’s railways have not much use for the concept of universal design — the idea that what you do for the disabled will benefit all people, and, conversely, improving infrastructure for the general population aids the disabled. The problem is that the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 is a toothless law which does not compel any government department to re-engineer facilities to eliminate barriers. Its successor law has been much talked about, but the UPA government is yet to make the great leap forward.

Indian Railway stations are of World War II vintage in terms of facilities, despite the loud talk of GDP growth. A disabled man at Kodambakkam suburban station, Chennai

This man making his way up the staircase at the suburban rail station would no doubt have a lot to contribute to the idea of accessibility in India’s public facilities. The pity is that although our leaders have a fair proportion of older adults (former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi), arthritics, handicapped people (S. Jaipal Reddy), and a Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who would not be able to hold a grab rail because that involves a vertical lift of the arm (have you seen his waving style?), they care little for the average citizen in such difficult circumstances.


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