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Will disabled people miss the train again?

D.N.I.S. News Network- A decade after the Disability Act mandated that all form of public transport should be made accessible, Indian Railways, the country’s main artery, remains largely inaccessible and dangerous for disabled and old people.

With the count down for the Railway Budget 2006-2007 having started, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) has presented to Union Minister for Railways Lalu Prasad Yadav recommendations to make trains and related travel services disabled-friendly.

N.C.P.E.D.P. has also requested the Minister to grant an appointment to a delegation of leaders representing various disabilities to be able to stress the need for declaring disability as a priority area for the Indian Railways.

The letter states: “Traveling in trains is not only uncomfortable but also hazardous and unsafe for persons with disabilities…disabled people who cannot climb up the over bridge, have to cross the railway tracks to reach the platforms, which is extremely dangerous. The railway coaches, stations, etc. are completely inaccessible for disabled people. There are hardly any facilities for visually and hearing impaired people at the stations. Some trains have a coach attached at the end of the train, which is meant for disabled people. Most disabled people, especially severely disabled people, avoid traveling by trains due to above mentioned reasons. The woes of disabled passengers are further aggravated by lack of any systemic policy to address the issue of safe, accessible travel in Indian Railways. The policy is limited to providing travel concession which is again not uniform and standardised.”

Listed below are the recommendations that have been made for the Railway Budget 2006.2007:

  1. Access

  1. Standardisation of Railway Travel Concession Certificate

· Concessions should be uniform for all categories of persons with disabilities.

· Extend concessions for the disabled people in Rajdhani/ Shatabdi Express.

· Issue a life-long Railway Travel Concession Certificate to those with permanent disabilities.

· Extend the facility of online ticket booking for the disabled people.

· Modify the rule which states that for a hearing impaired person, in order to avail the concession, the person must be deaf and dumb (both afflictions together in the same person). The term ‘dumb’ is derogatory and should not be used. Deafness/ hearing impairment is the basic disability and is recognised under The Disability Act, 1995. Concessions should be available to all the hearing impaired people, including those, who may have learnt speech.

  1. Employment

· Launch a ‘special Drive’ to clear the backlog of the reserved vacancies for the disabled people.

· Provide licenses to disabled hawkers/vendors at the railway stations.

· Provide support services to disabled travellers, such as providing assistants, interpreters, wheelchairs, etc. at all the railway stations.

  1. Sensitisation

· Disability awareness training to be organised on a regular basis for all the Railway Employees. Training in disability issues to be made mandatory for staff dealing with the public, including, station masters, ticket examiners (TT), persons handling enquiry, reservations, etc; officials in booking parcel office; “May I help you” counters; catering officials, staff, etc.

· Plan for sensitising the railway officials on disability issues.