Physically disabled – Lest they forget

They stand in a crowd and stand out in it. It is tough to just walk past them without noticing. We always fear different things, either how we interact with them or about how they will react to the interaction. It is this fear (I think) that stops people from helping the disabled.

If you live in Mumbai then am sure you might have traveled in Mumbai local. The ever-crowded stations where even the able bodied men and women suffocate and sometimes give up, can be a bit too much for a disabled person. There is one major problem that compounds the existing disability.

It is not like this at all times. The rush basically depends on the direction of travel, place, timing, delay, etc. A friend mentioned that the trains weren’t supposed to function without closed doors, but if that were the case then most people would have been stranded at all times.

There are so many different types of concessions and ample reservations for the physically disabled in our society. In the field of education and employment the govt has ensured that it tries to do everything it can. But there is one problem, our infrastructure is built to ensure that it works for the majority – able bodied and where there is some extra support for the disabled, it doesn’t work.

A few months back when I was standing at Vile Parle station, I heard this recurring beep. Since I had a lot of time at hand, I walked on the platform and looked around for the source. The source was a board placed overhead on the platform with the following text written on it “Physically Disabled”, earmarking the location where the car for the physically disabled will arrive. The beep is to ensure that the blind can figure out about the car too. It is a really sensible thing.

But here is the thing, I didn’t hear this beeping noise at any other station, once I started thinking hard I could point out a few of them. But are a few of them really enough? They were functional at handful stations and there was another problem associated.

With the change in the type of trains, the board didn’t coincide with the car. The beep didn’t coincide with the car and this means it makes an already tough thing to do even tougher. There are about 3 different types of trains running on the railway lines

1)      The new Siemens rakes

2)      The old rakes with different number of cars.

These things are supposed to ensure that a disabled person can rely on and be as much independent as possible. Imagine these boards misleading someone on crowded station like Kurla. Long back, I was at that station waiting for the 9:21 PM train which was already 20 minutes late. In the crowd I was making my way through to the second class car when I realised I was standing where the first class car would arrive. I bumped into a man; being huge I get cussed at a lot for bumping into people. This man was silent, so I turned and saw that the man was blind and standing among the first class crowd. I went over to him and asked which car he is waiting for, he replied for the luggage one. The fact is that the old rakes have really small entry cum exit points for the physically disabled car and the luggage ones have wider entry/exit points and don’t have a pole in the middle. So, while helping him get in, I got in too. Ensure that he got down and then changed cars to the second class one.

Here are a few things I think can be done about this

1)      Instead of a beeper at every platform, why not one on every train?

2)      Colour coded paint for the disabled coach, a colour that stands out and doesn’t blend in

3)      Some dedicated ‘helpers’ for the people.

We often stand up and fight for the rights of minorities, women and children. We often forget the minority which remains silent.

Photos of the physically disabled compartment in the older Mumbai Locals is here. Once you see them it will be clearer as to why a human being simply cannot travel in one of those.


  1. // Reply

    OMG, I can’t believe people were hanging on to the train by their hands and that the trains were so overstuffed that the doors wouldn’t close! The boarding process seems mob-like…I don’t even see how a disabled person could get off or on. I think your ideas for improving physically disabled passenger access are quite reasonable. Good for you for helping that blind man onto and off the train!

  2. // Reply

    I got chills looking at that video. As a rider of NYC subways, I’ve had some crowded and unpleasant commutes. But no doors??? Hanging on the outside?? That’s terrifying. Navigating that situation for a disabled person seems incredibly dangerous. I hope you also sent your ideas to whatever authority may be able to enact them. Thank you also for your kindness with the blind gentleman.

  3. // Reply

    I think that England is doing it’s best when it comes to catering for the disabled person. We have special parking bays, bleepers at traffic lights, even the concrete pavement on the ground is of a different texture before you cross the road. Buses have special disabled seats and they have a ramp that comes out so that a wheelchair can gain access on to it. Pavements in general now have dips so that if you are in a wheelchair you don’t have to step down off the pavement into the road you can just slide down into it. Many homes now have wider doors, wet rooms etc.

    Saying that, I’m not disabled and there has been complaints from people with disabilities that not enough is being done for them.

    As for the video, I’ve seen this many times on TV where people from places like India hang off over-ground trains and even sit on the roof of each carriage without any thought of safety. What a nightmare. It seems it’s only when there are serious accidents that the government takes note.

  4. // Reply

    Horrific, sud. That’s the sort of life I fled from in NYC. I wonder how people can live like that. Give me wide open spaces full of grass and trees and free time to wander and enjoy it.

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