BENGALURU: For 30-year-old Nagaraju, November 26 was very unlike his normal days. This bank employee is used to finding his way to his office near Vidhana Soudha every day from his house in Kamala Nagar about 10 km away. However, that day, he had to head to Jakkur for a training programme and his routine went haywire. While for most people it just means just a change in bus route, for Nagaraju and his friend, it meant a world of planning. The reason — Nagaraju and Anil are part of the city’s visually impaired population.
The route to my office is etched in my mind, I know every corner and every pole. I don’t even need my walking cane many a times. But the moment the route changes, there are a lot of uncertainties and nasty surprises,” Nagaraju says. In order to understand the difficulties he was talking about, we decided to accompany him on one of his trips to Jakkur.
“I have spent my entire life in this area, but there are so many changes. Some days a concrete slab is kept open or a road is dug up with no warning,” he says as he skirts around a car on his way to the bus stop. “Vehicles parked like this force us to use the road. Even if it is only one vehicle, with no way of spotting it, the road is a safer option,” he rues.
The TenderSURE roads in some areas of the city have brought some cheer to the visually impaired, who say that the wide shouldered pavements are the best to walk on. “I wish I had it in my neighborhood,” says Prasanna, a visually impaired clerk who works with a private firm.
“Crossing the roads has become a tedious affair now as vehicles zip past you without care. While some people help out, there are motorists who have hit my cane with their vehicles and zoomed away while I was trying to cross the road,” Nagaraju explains. When asked why he does not use skywalks, he says that skywalks are not popular among the blind.
“The skywalks have guide rails but most of them have wide gaps between steps. Others have metal sheets protruding on to the footpath and I have hit my head against these,” says Thipanna, an executive with a call centre. Nagaraju agrees with this but is also sobered by the tragedy of losing two of his friends to accidents while crossing the road.
With infrastructure lacking, it is interaction with some residents who go the extra mile to help them that the visually impaired depend on. “I have been travelling on buses for 25 years and people always give me a seat. The conductors are friendly and many help us cross roads,” Nagaraju said.
Experts say there is a lot of work before the city can become visually impaired-friendly. “There must be design alterations to bus stops and footpaths. Making them all of the same height is one step forward,” traffic expert M N Sreehari said.
This needs a push from the government. “The Rights of Persons with Disability Act has clearly defined sections that speak about the accessibility of roads and transportation. These must be pushed by the government,” said Gautam Agarwal, General Secretary, Karnataka Chapter, National Federation of the Blind.