New disabled-friendly buses which would allow wheelchair-bound passengers to get inside would be introduced soon, said Transport secretary B Chandra Mohan.
However, the announcement has not enthused the differently-abled persons, as the trial of an “accessible” MTC bus with electric lift and ramp for wheelchair users ended in a fiasco on November 7. When she tried to board the trial vehicle, Smitha Sadasivan of the Disability Rights Alliance fell backwards from the ramp and hit the back of her head on the concrete floor.
“When the persons with reduced mobility are complaining about accessibility, particularly to climb three steep steps, the MTC has designed a bus with four steps, making it much more difficult for them to access,” Smitha noted the irony. She added that persons with crutches, multiple sclerosis, and even with knee pain and the elderly would find it difficult to access the newly designed bus.
She also wondered whether there would be enough space at bus stops for the ramps to fold out. “The lift is narrow and cannot not accommodate all types of wheelchairs,” she said, and added that low floor buses with ramp was the only solution to make it truly accessible.
Sources in the Directorate for the Welfare of Differently Abled said they had conveyed to the MTC all the feedbacks submitted by the participants during a consultation, with recommendation.
A Transport official said the trial was done on a bus retrofitted with the electric ramp and based on the design changes. “We will try to make appropriate changes based on the feedback from the trial. But changing to low-floor buses would be impossible,” the official said, adding that they were much costlier. The official added that the conductors would be trained to operate the electric lift and also help the disabled.