CHENNAI: Disability rights activists believe even the new Metro stations (part of the phase 1 extension) will be riddled with accessibility issues, going by photos the Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) posted on social media.
As per the Central Public Works Department’s (CPWD) ‘Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier Free Built Environment for Disabled and Elderly Persons’ 1998, the platforms must have a row of dotted guiding blocks for persons with impaired vision, 800 mm or more from the edge.
“But the yellow line seen in the photos is just a painted strip that is not tactile,” said Vaishnavi Jayakumar, activist, Disability Rights Alliance. “While Metro Rail says persons with disabilities will be assisted by staff, it doesn’t have to be the case; they may be able to board the train independently if the necessary features are in place,” she added.
Vaishnavi had filed a public interest writ petition last year seeking to make Metro stations disabled-friendly. The CPWD guidelines also mention that the maximum number of risers shall be 12. “There should be a maximum of 12 steps before it breaks into a landing. In this case, there seem to be around 15. This was ignored in 2015 too,” she said.
“The staircase seen in the photograph is also open to the sky. Have they factored in rain in non-slip pendulum testing? There should also be a wheelchair-access sign at the entrance,” she added. Activists in the city had earlier raised concerns regarding signage without pictograms and the height of the ticket counter, which makes it difficult for someone on a wheelchair to see the ticket operator. In terms of floors, although they appear to be less slippery than the earlier flooring, the anti-slip characteristics are yet to be seen, said activists.
Responding to concerns, CMRL officials said a continuous tactile strip on the platform is not required since staff will guide differently-abled persons from the staircase and lift to the nearest coach. On the number of steps, an official said the recommended number is 12, as per the National Building Code’s latest revision.
“However, the CMRL design is based on NBC 2005 as per DPR, where 15 steps are allowed in a flight. The steps have grooves to prevent people from slipping,” the official added. Regarding the height of the ticket counters, the official said wheelchair users are offered physical assistance by CMRL staf fat the station.