Big Strides Needed for Safer Steps
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: What does it take to make Thiruvananthapuram a wheelchair-friendly city? A discussion held the other day, attended by the wheelchair-bound, Social Justice Department officials, a Corporation Councillor, a builder, architects and NGO workers, threw open several insights and suggestions.
For one, having a ramp is not enough. Advocate Gokul Ratnakar, who has been on a wheelchair following a road accident nine years ago, said that many a time the ramp would be too narrow or too steep. Sometimes the buildings which have ramps might be difficult to access, he said.
The discussion was organised by Pallium India, an organisation which works for people with life-limiting illness.
Its founder Dr M R Rajagopal anchored the discussion. He said that nine out of 10 people will have limited mobility in their final years. He said that the people who fail to see the difficulties of a person with disability could be heading to a similar fate.
Ashla Rani, a wheelchair-bound volunteer at Pallium India, said that she wishes to move freely like everyone else. It took around six people to carry her in buildings which had no ramp nor lift. One such building that is now wheelchair friendly is the Raj Bhavan , thanks to Ashla conveying her difficulties to the Governor, when she accompanied the Pallium team.
It may not be practical to visit each and every public building, to fight for a ramp, and a larger policy change is needed. But an idea that has found acceptance in other cities is the formation of an access-audit team, according to Manoj Kurien, Coordinator, State Institute of Disabilities.
The team, which consists of people with different disabilities along with a media person, needs to visit buildings and check their accesibility.
Soumini Raja, Assistant Professor, College of Architecture, said that a city should be inclusive. While most of the time a city caters to the adult male, it should be friendly to the adult female, third gender, children, people with disabilities and the aged population, she said.
She said that Kerala Municipality Building Rules Section 40 A stipulates the facilities a building should have for it to be friendly to people with disabilities.
Favorite Homes MD Martin Thomas said that builders can be sensitized to the plight of people with disabilities. He said he had started designing villas and apartments which were friendly to such people, after he encountered a customer bound to a wheelchair.
Perunthanni Councillor P Padmakumar said that the Corporation building was not friendly to people with disabilities. He said that he will the issues that were raised need to brought to the notice of the Chief Minister.
At the end of the discussion, an action group led by Manoj Kurien and Gokul Ratnakar was formed. It was decided to contact CREDAI to hold an awareness meeting for builders. Suggestions like formation of a special team to expedite accident insurance cases will be explored.