ACCESS TO PUBLIC TRANSPORTS, ROADS

Physically-challenged people count little

Shahin Akhter | Published: 23:57, Sep 06,2018

 
 

A woman drives her wheelchair amid traffic on a road near New Market. --- New Age file photo

Physically-challenged people’s access to the capital’s public transports, streets, terminals, stations and port is still very limited for lack of convenient facilities and infrastructures, road safety experts and urban planners have observed.
Policymakers and planners still lack the mentality to secure safety and rights of physically challenged people on roads, footpaths and different terminals, they allege.
When road safety is the most-talked-about issue at present in the wake of student protests that shook the whole country, rights of physically-challenged people on the capital’s public establishments are utterly ignored.
Rights and Protection of Disabled People Act 2013’s section 34 says that access of people with disabilities to public establishments has to be ensured.
According to the law, the public establishments are public and private buildings, parks, stations, ports, terminals and roads.
Institute of Wellbeing assistant network officer Md Mithun, who is a wheelchair user, says that public transports, footpaths, launch, bus and train stations have almost no facilities for them.
‘The authorities never monitor if wheelchair users can get on buses without ramps,’ he alleges.
It is impossible, he complains, for them to get on launches due to the narrow and risky stairs and it needs at least four people to help them get on train from the platform.
‘We face problems in using footpaths as they are not even, very narrow and
occupied in most places in Dhaka city,’ Mithun mentions.
He alleges that in most cases traffic police members do not help them in crossing roads or getting on footpaths.
Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust assistant project officer Rifat Pasha says that the government has given tactile markings on some footpaths in areas such as Mirpur road, Gulshan and Agargaon to facilitate visually impaired people like him.
‘But unfortunately most of these signs are not proper as they are flat instead of being in relief,’ he alleges, adding, ‘The footpaths are very high, which is risky.’
Without any help from others, he says, it is impossible for him to get on buses, trains and launches.
‘Recently, I got on a bus which dropped me at Moghbazar intersection instead of wireless point where I had told them to drop me. It was really a tough day for me as the footpath was too narrow, occupied, dilapidated and the road was very busy,’ Rifat recounts.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology’s Accident Research Institute director professor Md Mizanur Rahman notes that the country’s public transport system is very tough even for the able-bodied, let alone the physically-challenged ones.
‘We still lack the mindset to give priority to people with disabilities during designing public transports, footpath networks and infrastructures,’ he observes.
In future policy, planning and design decisions, he suggests, the needs of people with disabilities should be considered.
Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan joint secretary architect Iqbal Habib regrets that facilities for people with disabilities, accounting for 10 per cent of the total population, are extremely few.
What is more agonising is that the authorities lack the mentality to take initiatives for them, he adds.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police joint commissioner for traffic north Mosleh Uddin Ahmed claims that they manually help wheelchair users and other physically-challenged people in using footpaths and crossing roads.
He also claims that the bars, set up on footpaths to prevent motorcyclists, have been built in a way that wheelchairs can pass through them.
‘If for any reason a wheelchair cannot pass through these bars, on-duty police help them,’ he says.
Dhaka North City Corporation chief engineer Brigadier General Md Syeed Anwarul Islam informs that since 2015 they have installed yellow marking, tactile markings and zero slope on footpaths in Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara and Uttara and now the work is going on at Karwan Bazar and Mirpur.
But, he mentions, the motorcycles and cars are getting on zero slopes and damaging the facilities.
Police have set up bars in front of footpaths without coordinating and informing them, he alleges.
Bangladesh Road Transport Authority director for road safety Sk Md Mahbub-E-Rabbani claims that they always discuss facilities for people with disabilities during forming any policy and making any decision.
Social welfare minister Rashed Khan Menon told New Age that from the ministry letters were given to ministries concerned for implementing the 2013 law’s section 34 for ensuring access of people with disabilities to public establishments.

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