Disabled commuters slam BMTC for a rough ride
Bangalore Bus Prayanikara Vedike today organised the event ‘DISCRIMINATING BUSES – challenges faced by senior citizens and persons with disabilities in using the bus’ . The event saw the participation of several disabled groups, senior citizens groups and a panel to respond to their concerns.
The panel consisted of Mr. Venkatesh, Chief Systems Manager, BMTC; Mr. Mohan, Bangalore Urban District Disabled Welfare Officer, Mr.Vasudev, Deputy Director, Dept. of women and child welfare development; Mr.Zaheer, manager – Disability department, DWCD; Nr.Basavaraj director, Association of people with Disability; Mr.G.N.Nagaraj, President, Karnataka Angavikalara haagu Paalakara Okoota.
Speaking first, Ms.Mary amma, of the Akhila Karnataka Vayovruddhara Okkoota a senior citizens forum spoke of how drivers do not stop buses long enough for elderly people to get off and on the bus; how the public do not vacate seats meant for senior citizens and the absence of infrastructure for the elders – lack of railings, not enough seats etc. She also spoke of how the concession offered by BMTC for senior citizens was very less. Many of the elders who use buses are not pensioners but those who worked in the informal labour system, and now in their old age they are dependent on children for money and that they feel hesitant to ask for bus fares because they are so high.
Jayadeva M, a visually impaired bus commuter spoke of how the absence of announcements in all buses makes it difficult for them to figure out which stop they are in. He also asked for a better grievance redressal system in the major bus-stands. The absence of visually impaired infrastructure in bus stands and bus-stops was a major issue.
Shubha, a college student who is speech and hearing impaired spoke of how women who are disabled face increased sexual harassment by men in buses. Because of her disability she finds it difficult to complain of the harassment or confront the harasser. She asked for more support from drivers and conductors for the disabled.
Devikala, who has to use the bus everyday using crutches spoke of the difficult faced by the disabled in using non-ow floor buses. She wondered why that rich, able commuters who have to go to the airport have a low floor bus but the lakhs of disabled people are denied such a facility by BMTC. She wondered if the BMTC had a will to address the concerns of the disabled.
The other major concerns expressed were the humiliating and laborious process of obtaining a disability pass. All the people present wondered why BMTC issued a pass only yearly once at a fixed time and also why they need to get authorization from the Disability officer when they already had ID cards. The attitude of conductors and drivers came in for much criticism – while some conductors and drivers were helpful, the rest were just not co-operative people said.
Responding to the concerns, Mr.G.Mohan, the district disability welfare officer also requested BMTC to do away with the process of requesting the district disability welfare officer signing all the bus passes for disabled people. HE said it was unnecessary when the disabled already had a ID card. Mr.G.M.Nagaraj demanded that the whole process of disability passes be done away with – he said a disability card should enable people with disability to travel for free or pay a concessional fare in the bus directly. He also called on BMTC to form a senior citizens and disability cell which should have representation of disabled rights groups. He also said that conductors and drivers did not stop for long for elders and disabled people since conductors had unrealistic revenue and time targets from BMTC. He said that BMTC was to blame for the hurried manner in which conductors and drivers drive and operate the buses. Mr.Basavaraj called for a systemic response where the BMTC, DWCD and the Disability Welfare department worked together with disability rights groups and commuters groups to seve the interests of the disabled people.
Mr.Venkatesh from BMTC gave a toll free helpline phone number (18004251663), which he said can be said if there is any grievance of the passengers. He promised to take up the several concerns with BMTC management. On the issue of bus fares and bus passes, he said the state government took a decision on these issues and he said he would take it up with the state government. He also spoke of how the Sarathi vehicles of BMTC does spot checks to see if men are sitting in womens reservation seats and that they could also check to see if the senor citizens seats and disabled reserved seats are being misused by others.
Key concerns of People with Disabilities (PwD) and Senior Citizens (CS)
|Concerns||Demands/ suggested solutions|
|Bus Design/ Seating||2 seats reserved for PwD in BMTC/ KSRTC buses
No wheelchair access in buses (except Volvo)
|Priority seating for PwD and SC, authorise conductors to vacate seats for this purpose Priority of seats for PwD and SC near the doors to facilitate easy boarding and alighting
Wheelchair access in buses
Automatic auditory announcement of bus stops in all buses
Seat-belt facilities for 2 seats per bus
Hand-railing support for Pwd and CS
|Bus Driver/ Conductor||Conductors abuse PwD/SC when they take time for boarding/ alighting
Bus Driver moves the bus before Pwd/SC alight
Buses don’t stop in designated bus stops
|Priority for PwD and SC during boarding and alighting at bus stops, authorise conductors to facilitate this
Sensitisation of all bus drivers/ conductors – regularly
|Bus Stop/ Shelter||People need to walk more than 500 meters to change buses at flyovers/ underpasses/ ring road
In some places the distance between bus stops are more than 1 Km
No PwD friendly toilets
|Bus bays at the middle of flyovers/ underpasses with ramp facility for people to move between the two levels
Facilitate request stop between designated bus stops for PwD and SC
Make all bus shelter/ bus stop floor even and at the level of the boarding step of buses. Make them accessible for wheelchair users
Need PwD friendly toilets in major bus stops/ shelters
|Bus Pass/ Fare Concession||25% concession in bus fare for SC
Annual bus pass is Rs. 660 for PwD
PwD bus pass valid in 100 Km radius
PwD bus pass not valid for escorts
PwD bus pass not valid in neighbouring states
No concession for people escorting CS
|90% concession on bus fare/ pass for senior citizens Annual bus pass fee should be Rs. 200 for PwD
PwD bus pass should be valid across Karnataka
PwD bus pass should be given to escorts for intellectually disabled people
No concession for people escorting CS above the age of 70
|Road/ Railway Crossing/ Footpath||No provision for people to cross the railway track in many places. Wheelchairs can’t cross the road in most places||Zebra/ level crossing No pedestrian subways/ skywalks, if not possible, install manned lift facility
Auditory signals at all traffic signal lights, clear signages
Curb cuts and slopes on all roads/ footpath for wheelchair users
Engraving on the services of the zebra crossing for the visually handicapped
Wide footpaths, road median
|Public||Not sensitive to the needs of PwD and CS||Large scale public campaigns/ awareness to sensitise public|
The gathering also called on BMTC to conduct a disability audit of all buses and bus-stops and terminal regularly and that disability groups would be happy to partner with BMTC to do the same.