They are either locked or lack basic facilities
Washrooms for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) are not usable at many railway stations in Bengaluru.
“Washrooms for PwDs are closed due to renovation in the general waiting area. All three (waiting areas) were locked due to Covid. Now we have opened the ladies and general waiting area, ’’ said Saurabh Jain, Nodal Officer, Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (IRSDC), KSR railway station.
There are two washrooms for differently abled people at the KSR station. One is inside the general waiting area; the other is inside a waiting area for senior citizens and the differently abled. The former is undergoing renovation and the latter one is closed due to Covid-19. It is opened on request, but that requires many visits to the cabins of the Deputy Station Manager, Chief Commercial Inspector and Nodal Officer. Once a person gets the lock opened, it still isn’t accessible to PwDs.
The Observer saw there were no ramps at the entrance of the washrooms, nor were there any handlebars inside the washrooms. One of the basins had no water; another had a broken tap. Neither of them had a soap dispenser or hand sanitizer. There wasn’t any Braille mapping at the entrances. The under-renovation washrooms were completely out of reach for PwDs.
Saurabh Jain promised that he would make the washrooms for handicapped more accessible just as platforms are accessible for PwDs, with ramps and Braille mapping on elevators. The renovation would be done in 30 days and hence the disabled-friendly washrooms would be accessible to PwDs.
The Cantonment railway station has one divyang washroom in the general waiting area, but it does not have any ramp or Braille signage.
Mr Peter, a personal assistant to the Station Manager, informed The Observer that the flush was working and there were bars, but there was no running water.
The railways started a programme months ago to revamp the station and add amenities for PwDs. “Bengaluru Cantonment is a heritage building. We have to build… without disrupting the structure… of the building. Hence the delay in ramp,’’ shared K. S. Vijaykumar, Station Manager.
There was a puzzled look on the face of K. R. Shanmugam, Station Manager of the K.R. Puram station when he was asked about washrooms for the differently abled. “There is only one ladies’ bathroom and one gents’ bathroom.’’ There are no separate washrooms for PwDs.
The Observer did not find any physically challenged commuters at any of these railway stations.
Staff at the Metro stations refused to unlock washrooms for the differently abled for The Observer. They only open it for PwDs.
MG Road Metro station, among many others, is one of the stations where the washrooms are almost 100 meters away from the platforms.
According to the Swachh Bharat Mission handbook, a washroom for the differently abled should have accessible doors, movable commode seats, grab bars and ramps. None of the above was installed in any of the washrooms at the railway stations The Observer visited.
“It has been six years since we started the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyaan. Step by step we are implementing it,’’ said Niranjan Bhatt, Assistant Director of Department of Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizens.
Manasa Devi, a consultant at the Department for Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizens, shared that she agrees public buildings, especially railway stations should be accessible to PwDs. They should include ramps, accessible doors, and Braille signage.
According to the rights of People with Disabilities Act, 1996 –the government shall ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality which means equally maintained and hygienic toilets. All public buildings shall be accessible to PwDs per the rules formulated by the central government.