Thursday, November 13, 2014

Delhi Metro is not barrier free for travelers with blindness

Dear Colleagues,

This horrific incident with our friend Smriti Singh, is indicative of the fact how unsafe the Metro services has been all this while. Some time back our another visually impaired friend Ms. Sweety Bhalla, a senior employee at Food Corporation of India also suffered injuries when her feet got stuck between the space on the platform and the train coach. These are important reminders that Delhi Metro should immediately address the safety of its passengers. 

Shreya Roy Chowdhury,TNN | Nov 13, 2014, 03.30 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Smriti Singh, a visually impaired English teacher at Maitreyi College, fell on the tracks at Vaishali Metro station while trying to pick her way out of a train, unescorted, on November 5 (Wednesday). The 30-year-old's predicament—she's now laid up with 13 stitches on her head and a bad back—detracts from Delhi Metro's reputation for being fully modern and accessible. There are no barriers between the platform and the tracks at Vaishali and there was no assistant to receive her either. 

Singh, who frequently uses Metro to get to work, claims that assistance is often missing at Vaishali. She changes over to the Yellow line at Race Course station, switches to the Blue at Rajiv Chowk and rides it till the last stop at Vaishali. According to Metro's system, word of her arrival travels before her, or it should. "On that day, a student rode with me till Rajiv Chowk and there DMRC officials took my name and contact details. They were to inform the Vaishali staff so they could have assistance ready to help me off the train and out of the station once I arrived," recalls Singh. It's not anything new. "The people at the station know me," she says. 

She boarded the Blue line but once she got off at Vaishali, she found no assistant to guide her. "I waited and then started asking other commuters for help," she says. This too has happened before, but, on every occasion, someone had stepped forward. "This time no one came. I had gone a few steps when I fell straight on the tracks. There's a gap between the tactile strip and the platform as well and no barriers." The officials came running. They stopped the approaching train, pulled her out and had someone accompany Singh, who'd bled all over her kurta, to hospital. "Their ambulance didn't arrive on time either and I went to the hospital in my own car and without a female escort. I kept telling myself not to faint all the while." Her husband spoke to the station officials the next day but no one's got back to them with any update. They've also filed a police complaint. "This shouldn't happen to anyone else. There should've been barriers on the side. Not just for disabled people but also for kids. Anyone can fall in when it's crowded," she explains. 

Asked about the incident, spokesperson for Delhi Metro Anuj Dayal admitted that there had been shortcoming on part of the Delhi Metro staff. "The passenger had spoken to a customer facilitation assistant at Rajiv Chowk who had informed the train operator on the Vaishali-bound train. The TO, however, didn't inform station staff at Vaishali. The train operator is being questioned," said Dayal. 

"There was another case some time back," observes Anil Aneja, vice-president of All India Confederation of the Blind. He cites Section 46 of Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, that requires all public infrastructure, including transport, to be accessible. "There's a Supreme Court judgment of March 2014, that directs states to implement Section 46 by December. It's already November," says Aneja.


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