Railway Minister declares Railways to be disabled-friendly

disabled friendly rlysNew Delhi: Railways is planning to augment its infrastructure to cater to more people including differently-abled persons. The transporter behemoth plans to augment its infrastructure both quantitatively and qualitatively in order to cater to more people and to include specific problems like accessibility for the disabled, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said at an award function here today, adding that Rail travel will be more accessible for people with disabilities.

India has over 8,000 stations, and around three crore people travel every day by train. Though the country’s population has increased, the railway infrastructure has not risen proportionately, the minister said after presenting the 6th National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People-Mphasis Universal Design 2015 Awards to the individuals and organisations, working to create an accessible and barrier-free society for persons with disabilities in the areas of built environment, transport, ICT, services, and aids and appliances, at the India International Centre here.

“I will ask mechanical department officials (of the railways) to look into how to make rail bogies accessible for disabled people,” Prabhu said in his speech in Hindi. He, however, said it might take some time, and he was not making any false promises.

Though the act giving rights to disabled came into effect in 1995, the society still needs to change its mindset towards disabled people, he said.

Railways has recently introduced Braille stickers in some coaches to facilitate visually-challenged passengers. Prabhu said wheelchairs were available at the railway stations in Delhi as part of some companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy, and asked the private sector to contribute more in this connection.

He also said there were elevators in many stations.

Some of the notable work that was celebrated at the event included a smart cane and other assistive technology developed by an IIT Delhi professor; a one-stop resource app on disability; and aviation industry’s first employee with disability, among others.

The railway minister asked more people to help out to get “sukh aur anand” (mental satisfaction), and not as part of CSR.

He said disabled people’s “dharm” (duty) should be to always strive to go forward, while the “karm” (also duty) of others should be the help them as much as they can.

Earlier, Javed Abidi, honorary director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), said India has many websites that are inaccessible to the blind.

Talking about issues faced by disabled people while travelling by rail, he said blind people were unable to book tickets online, while the deaf were unable to talk to officials while at the stations as most people do not know sign language.

He said train bogies were inaccessible to disabled people, and asked Prabhu to modify the coach designs to make them disabled-friendly.

Abidi said disabled people were also unable to make it through the overhead foot-bridges to go to other platforms.

Though the government issues an identity document to disabled people, that is not recognised by the railways for travel and that requires a separate certificate for disability, he lamented.

Prabhu presented a host of awards to individuals and companies for developing new designs and technologies for access to disabled people.