CHENNAI: As Tuesday marked five years since the Rights to Persons With Disabilities (RPWD) Act was passed, a group of disability rights activists and persons with disabilities (PwDs), inspected the accessibility at the newly inaugurated Central Square. To their dismay, like most other facilities in the city, this too was inaccessible for them.
Though new technologies, such as electric wheelchairs, can provide independent mobility to PwDs, they are only as good as the weakest link. A single obstacle - a step, gap or curb without a ramp - can be unconquerable.
"In April, there was no ramp from road to pavement. Railings have been put up now but that exits onto a very busy intersection, serving no purpose at all. There are no signages," said Vaishnavi Jayakumar, an activist. Smitha Sadasivan, a member of the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA) Concurred.
According to the guidelines of the Central Public Works Department, a three-feet width must be left for wheelchairs, colour contrasting is must to distinguish steps, tactile flooring to guide and warn the visually impaired, mandatory non-slip surfaces and railing must extend beyond level change, by a foot.
However, all of these features are missing at the Central Square. "Not just the disabled, even the general public tripped and fell as there was no colour contrast to distinguish steps. Wheelchairs could not go near the Ripon Building side as the boulders were constructed too close to each other," a PwD said.
A Chennai Metro Rail official said, "Repair works have been taken up. As we keep getting suggestions about the ramp, we will correct it to suit the disabled."