Disabled People Demand Accessible and Affordable Railways
HUNDREDS of disabled people from 12 states and 21 organisations under the banner of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled demonstrated at Parliament Street on March 6th morning demanding the right to travel by railways – for accessible and affordable railways.
Later in the evening a delegation met the union railway minister Piyush Goyal and submitted a memorandum. The delegation was accompanied by M B Rajesh, member of parliament.
The minister assured that he would look into all the demands raised in the memorandum and try to see what all issues can be addressed immediately.
The following are the issues that were brought to the notice of the minister through the memorandum.
Railway stations are not accessible. Ramps are rare. Platforms are inaccessible. The gap (height) between the platform and the coach varies from station to station. There is not enough space for mobility inside the coaches. Toilets cannot be used by persons with certain disabilities. Inter-platform transfers pose a big challenge.
· The railways should go in for universal design.
· Henceforth all coaches to be made accessible.
· Ramps/lifts should be provided wherever necessary. As against escalators which are not disabled friendly, elevators can be used by persons with disabilities. Lifts should be provided at all platforms connecting to overbridges for easy access.
· Provision of temporary ramps on platforms for alighting and boarding till such time that the foldable ramps within the coaches are installed.
· Floor tiles everywhere should be non-slippery even when wet. Textured, outdoor, matt, non-reflective flooring surfaces are preferable.
· Tactile marking should be made on the platform to guide blind persons to the exit, bridges, stairs, ticketing counters etc. Tactile markings should also be provided on the edges of the platforms: warning, contrast, 2 row width TWSI - tactile walking surface indicator as per ISO standards. Platform numbers should be labelled in Braille both at the entry/exit points as well as on the railing of the foot overbridge.
· To guide persons with low visibility, stations should also have coloured markings and contrasts to guide low vision persons to ticket counters, platforms over bridges etc. Coloured markings should be made on the edge of platforms including tactile markings to warn passengers with low vision of the edge of the platform. Tactile map and online map of station premises, with refuge points for disabled marked in case of emergency.
· Provision of disabled friendly toilets at all stations. At least one with changing table etc for people with spinal cord injury.
· All coaches should have Braille embossed signage both on the exterior as well as the interior (seats) whose placement should be as per standards.
· Battery operated cars should be made available at all major stations and platforms free of cost.
· Provision of sign language interpreters/signages in local languages at stations should be made.
· With regard to web accessibility, railway sites have to be made WCAG 2/GIGW compliant. Captchas are problematic for the visually impaired. Options like visual + audio + OTP via SMS should be given. Information and technology apps have to be made accessible and alternatives for announcements screen/recorded should be there.
If the railways could follow the accessibility standards set in their very own ”Manual for Standards and Specifications for Railway Stations” brought out in 2009, it would make a huge difference.
- Extend concession to all trains: The railways have been providing concessions to certain categories of disabled persons in mail and express trains, which now has been extended to Rajdhani and Shatabdi also. 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.
- Extend concession to all disabled: Concession should be extended to all those classified as “persons with benchmark disability” as defined in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
- The escort of a child less than five years of age should be extended the same concession as applicable to other escorts.
- Uniform rate of concession: There is a variation in the concession granted to different categories of disabled persons. It should be uniform at 75 per cent for all disabled persons.
- Concession on tatkal tickets: The concession given on other tickets should also be extended for bookings made under tatkal by the disabled.
PROOF OF DISABILITY
Like in the case of senior citizens, the proof of disability (disability certificate, concession certificate or UDID) should not be mandatory for booking the ticket. Proof can be demanded by the TTE while the disabled person is undertaking the journey, like in the case of senior citizens.
VALIDITY OF DISABILITY CERTIFICATE
Despite the central government introducing the universally valid card (UDID) for disabled, the railways is going ahead with issuing a separate card for disabled. This is in violation of the RPD Act. The railways should accept disability certificates or cards as valid proof of the disability of the concerned person and do away with the requirement of a separate certificate/card.
COACH FOR THE DISABLED
Many a time the coach meant for the disabled is occupied by other unauthorised travellers and even RPF personnel. Placement of this coach has also not been consistent – sometimes it is placed at the end of the train and sometimes it is placed next to the engine. It should be ensured that the coach be placed at the end near the guard’s coach and the guard be given additional responsibility of ensuring that none other than disabled persons and their escorts are allowed.
The lower berth quota for those with mobility issues has to be doubled.
SENSITISING RAILWAY STAFF
The disabled encounter a lot of problems at railway counters. At some stations, the Aadhar card of the escort is being demanded; in many cases concessions are denied to those with less than 80 per cent disability. There is a need to sensitise all personnel working in the railways, especially those dealing directly with travellers, on issues connected with disability as also rules governing concessions for the disabled.
We are given to understand that the railways have neither created nor followed a roster for employment of disabled persons against the reserved quota. A roster needs to be created and backlogs on that basis be filled immediately.
The vast majority of the disabled people in the country are poor. Denied employment, many of them do odd jobs, one of them being hawking petty items on board trains to sustain themselves and their families. Disabled persons should be given licences to sell such items on trains. Preferential allotment of kiosks for the disabled at railway stations should be given.