Persons with disabilities, elderly demand accessible footpaths

They can’t dream of going to T. Nagar for shopping: professor

Every year, during the wedding anniversary, TMN Deepak entertains a particular wish — buy his wife a saree at T.Nagar or any other shopping centre. A simple wish which can be fulfilled easily, you may think. But Deepak doesn’t think that way. The very thought of getting into T.Nagar depresses him as the pavements there are not accessible to him.

It is not a problem faced just by him, many persons with mobility issues and elderly citizens of the city have been denied a social life due to lack of access to footpaths.

“I was in Seoul some time ago and there I can easily go around the entire city on an electric wheelchair. But it is impossible in Indian cities,” said Prof. Deepak, a teacher at Loyola College and founder of the December 3 movement, an organisation working for the rights of persons with disabilities.

He said the dream of making buses accessible to people with mobility issues can happen only if there are accessible footpaths.

“No elderly or a differently abled person can dream of going to T. Nagar for shopping, though all of us would love to do so. Due to lack of infrastructure, our social life has been snatched away. There is no point in making government offices differently abled-friendly if the footpaths are not obstruction free,” he added.

Sumana Narayanan, senior researcher, CAG, said disabled and elderly persons find it hard to cross the roads in the city.

“They cannot use the subways and foot over bridges. Even the pavements are not accessible. The wheel chairs cannot pass through the bollards that are meant to prevent two-wheelers from riding on the platform,” she said.

She also pointed out that one of the major encroachers of pavements are residential buildings and big commercial establishments.

“The residents maintain a garden on the pavement in the name of beautification or make it an incline. Commercial establishments keep wares outside the shop and obstruct pedestrian movement,” she said.

N. Kannan, Additional Commissioner of Police, traffic, said City Police Commissioner Mahesh Kumar Aggarwal, has asked traffic police personnel to start foot patrol.

“This way, the officers will know the problems faced by pedestrians and cyclists. Incidents of shops and vehicles encroaching the pavements will also reduce once they see police officers walking regularly,” he said.

Removing obstructions

Apart from this, the police have also been removing encroachments in the city.

“Under the road adoption programme, we are improving the available infrastructure in the city in association with the Greater Chennai Corporation. In the first phase, we have covered 65 stretches and in the second phase also we have taken up 65 roads. In all these areas we have prepared the footpaths for pedestrians by removing obstructions,” he added.

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