Thursday, December 03, 2009

Come on Bangalore, show that you do have a heart

Come on Bangalore, show that you do have a heart

On World Disability Day eve, DNA knows first-hand how hostile the city is to differently-abled

Vaishalli Chandra. Bangalore



It's 8.15 am. Nirmala is at Platform No 13, Majestic bus stand on time. Being late is a luxury she cannot afford. A resident of Rajajinagar, and employee in the accounts department of Mobility India, she leaves home at 7.30am to be in office at 9.30am.
"There are particular buses, whose drivers and conductors are sensitive enough to halt at the stop to let me board and alight," she says. "But some stop several meters away; by the time I reach the bus, they are already on their way."
As we wait at the bus station, Nirmala suggests that at least I sit as she can't. "The granite benches are slippery," she says, matter-of-factly.
The swanky looking bus station is no reflection of an all inclusive society. "The floor is slippery, making it difficult not only for us, but for children and elders too," Nirmala says. Ramps at the bus stand, she says, "are best avoided". People are in such a hurry that getting nudged or pushed is a high possibility.
As a flap-open door bus approaches, Nirmala suggests we wait for the normal one. "This is difficult to board, there is no railing support as the door covers it." An old BMTC bus arrives. With one hand on the railing and another on the step, she drags herself up. As we get off at 4th block Jayanagar, the shopper's paradise is a differently-abled person's hell.
Trying to walk on the uneven surface, she says, "Shops, banks, hospitals, public utility buildings should have ramps." As she tries to climb the stairs of a shop nearby, her crutches are precariously balanced on the rickety kadapa slab. The upturned pavement is tricky enough for able-bodied; "the smooth flooring is bad for all, yet builders construct buildings with beauty in mind rather than utility," Nirmala rues.
Hailing an auto we head to a nearby bank, a flight of stairs, again that needs to be manoeuvered. Leaving the footpath, Nirmala walks on the road, exposing herself to fast moving, heavy traffic. "The footpaths are always occupied or dug up, we have to take our chances walking on the road," she says.
The supermart in JP Nagar is a saving grace. There's a ramp, a lift and a wheelchair. "It isn't with the disabled in mind, but at least they are becoming sensitive to the needs of elders and women with younger children; of course, that helps us."

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