Celebrated physicist, the late Stephen Hawking once said, “People with disabilities are vulnerable because of the many barriers they face: attitudinal, physical, and financial. Addressing these barriers is within our reach… But most important, addressing these barriers will unlock the potential of so many people with so much to contribute to the world.”
In a country that has the world’s second largest population, out of which about 80 million people are specially-abled, what is the average quality of life that the country provides to this section of the society? India’s disabled are made further socially vulnerable by attitudinal barriers, and lack of quality education and women’s safety, as they continue to grapple with the challenges of access, acceptance, and inclusion.
As far as travel is concerned, our airports and metros are disabled-friendly, but what about the most mass-friendly means of transport for greater distances – the railways?
The present railway system is not equipped with enough facilities to support specially abled people. However, efforts are now being made to do the same. Indian railways is planning to introduce many facilities for differently-abled passengers at stations.
Here are some changes that are being planned:
- Standard ramp for barrier free entry.
- Earmarking at least two parking lots.
- Non-slippery walkway from parking lot to building.
- Signages of appropriate visibility.
- At least one toilet (on the ground floor).
- At least one drinking water tap suitable for use by persons with disabilities (divyangjan).
- At least one ‘May I Help You’ booth.
- Provision of facility for inter-platform transfer.
- Engraving on edges of platform.
Apart from these changes (in the pipeline) to make train travel more convenient for the specially abled people of the country, Indian railways also provide a reservation quota. The reservation quota of two sleeper class berths is earmarked in all trains running on non-suburban sections for persons with disabilities performing their journey on a ‘handicapped concession’ ticket.
Orthopedically handicapped or paraplegic people who cannot travel without an escort, blind persons traveling alone or with an escort for any purpose, and mentally challenged individuals who cannot travel without escorts can avail up to 75% concession in second class, sleeper, first class, 3AC and AC chair car, and 50% concession in 1AC and 2AC. 25% concession is also available for specially abled passengers in 3AC and AC chair car of Rajdhani and Shatabdi trains. Deaf and dumb persons travelling alone or with an escort can avail up to 50% concession in 2nd class, sleeper and 1st class. The person accompanying the handicapped person as escort is also allotted a berth out of this very quota. There are separate counters at each Passenger Reservation System (PRS) centre for such bookings. For more information on the amount of concession for different categories, one can visit the IRCTC website.