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Looking into making railways more disabled-friendly, promises railway minister vaguely

Rail travel will be more accessible for people with disabilities, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said here on Friday.

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 NCPEDP Mphasis Universal Design Awards 2015 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.

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.

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.

Among the awardees was Archana Konwar, a degree student from Assam’s Dhemaji district who designed a crutch with shock absorbers, a bell and a light to alleviate the pain people feel while using crutches.

Delhi’s Indraprastha College for Women was also recognised for its efforts in making the educational environment disabled-friendly.

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