Her dependency on a walking cane does not stop 45-year-old Prerna (name changed) from commuting nearly 18 km to her workplace every day. The one-way journey from Sadarahalli to Malleswaram takes this government employee close to two hours, and involves changing three buses.
But, faced with disabled-unfriendly buses and a complete lack of empathy from bus drivers on her route, Ms. Prerna dreads the journey to and from office.
“There is one driver in particular who is extremely rude and does not let me board the bus properly. Most days, I am left clinging on desperately to the rail on the first step with one hand and holding my cane with the other while the driver pulls away instantly. The door behind me stays open and I could fall out one of these days,” she said.
In Bengaluru, public transport for persons with physical disabilities is at best an ordeal, at worst, the lack of facilities and general apathy can pose a very real danger. “Most drivers view us as a burden because it delays other passengers from boarding the bus, and they have to wait longer for us,” said Ms. Prerna.
With no special facilities available for differently-abled commuters in the buses operated by the BMTC, travelling is tough. Coupled with it is the long process in getting a special discounted bus pass that persons with disabilities are entitled to. “When we had held an adalat on the issue, several users pointed out that it was a bigger headache getting the pass issued. Travelling of course is a problem as there are limited low-floor buses,” says Vinay Srinivas of Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike.
Semi-low-floor buses will help
The absence of disabled-friendly buses has resulted in the exclusion of most persons with disabilities from the public transport sector entirely. While some attempts were made in the past to install ramps to help them, they were abandoned as not feasible.
Now the BMTC is planning to procure semi-low-floor buses to assist the physically challenged. However, these buses will be a small component of the total fleet of over 6,000 buses that ply the city every day.
“The ramps were found to be non-feasible because of the number of humps on city roads. A foldable design was not possible and fixed ramps were quickly damaged when they touched the road humps. At present, there are no plans to bring back these ramps but we are looking at semi-low-floor buses,” a senior official from the BMTC said.
While new bus stations have incorporated facilities for access in some places, there are still several issues for those with loco-motor deficiency. The lack of a visual display or audio announcement in most bus-stands also makes it difficult as they have to keep asking others for details of the buses.
“Visual display boards will start soon at major bus-stands as part of the Intelligent Transport Solution (ITS) project. Announcements are already in place in major stations. However, currently there is no solution for people with disabilities, who need to exit or enter buses other than providing low-floor buses,” the official said.
Providing access to stations and buses has been a long-standing issue with the corporation. While some steps have been taken, a lot more remains to be done. “Of course, it’s a big issue. Most people with disabilities prefer not to use BMTC buses and those who cannot afford private transport cannot travel at all because of accessibility issues,” said Vinay Srinivas of Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike.
Of course it is a big issue. Most people with disabilities prefer not to use BMTC buses and those who cannot afford private transport cannot travel at all because of accessibility issues. Vinay Srinivas, Bangalore Bus Prayaanikara Vedike.
It is next to impossible for people who cannot walk without aid to travel in these buses alone. I can climb and get down from a two-wheeler and can also board a bus, but I need some time. Most days, drivers and conductors are unwilling to wait more than a few seconds. Srinivas, a person with loco-motor disability.
Total BMTC buses: 6,417
Lack of ramp in buses
Lack of visual display, route details at bus-stands
Lack of announcements at bus stations
Apathy towards accessibility issues from staff (conductors, drivers, pass-issuing authorities)