In each issue of beyond the I, this column presents a first hand account of a visually-impaired person's experiences in the 'real' world. In Delhi, Pranay Gadodia travelled on the Delhi Metro to see how friendly it is for visually-disabled persons
In my childhood, I had once asked my father when India would become 'foreign'. I remembered this boyhood question recently when I travelled by the Metro in Delhi.
Lorraine (my colleague) and I went by Metro to Rohini West from Central Secretariat. She told me to lead so that I could test its accessibility.
Going down the staircase, I stumbled over some potted plants placed at intervals near the walls. These were the first small barriers to accessibility as neither my cane nor my Retinitis Pigmentosa affected eyes could make them out. I continued with a more skeptical attitude, after my eyes slowly adapted to the changed light conditions inside. I located the ticket counters and an official cordially gave me directions to Rohini. I heard the announcement of the train arriving at platform 2. With my tunnel-like vision I saw a bright signboard for the platform, where I felt the different textured tiles on the platform’s edge. I heard the train arrive and the doors opening. We stepped into the well-lit carriage and seconds later heard an announcement to stand clear of the doors. This was followed by some beeps and the doors closed. Wow, really like the Star Trek spaceship! Soon another announcement indicated which station was approaching and on which side the doors would open. On arrival there was a beep before the doors opened.
At Kashmiri Gate we had to take a connecting train to Rohini. The next Metro station was an overground one, and we had to go up by escalators. As we got off the train, I saw the escalators but wondered how a totally blind person would find them. Then I noticed tactile tiles at many places and this time I followed their path. Lorraine showed me the lift, and we did go to it, but there was no tactile path to it. The good thing, though, was that the unmanned lift had Braille and tactile buttons for easy operation. The overground train was exactly the same as the underground one. When we reached Rohini West station, we headed towards the exit gate. At the exits, I think it would be a good idea to have a clear audible signal such as a recorded voice saying "Goodbye" or "Thanks for coming to Rohini West".
I enjoyed the journey back from Rohini to Central Secretariat too. Unlike the other railway stations and bus depots, there were no people or stray dogs on which I sometimes step.
In fact, I was proud to have such latest technology and good transportation in India. It made me feel that India had indeed become ‘foreign’!
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