The AMTS’s decision to allow PWDs to travel for free with a pass starting on April 1 hasn’t made it any easier for these individuals to commute. This is because for the majority of PWDs, getting to AMTS buses is a herculean task. Despite being free, bus travel will still be challenging for PWDs due to a lack of announcements about bus stops and unfriendly vehicle designs. There are 1,50,000 disabled people living in the city.
Disability rights activist Sursinh Solanki, who has polio in both of his legs, describes how he was unable to board an AMTS bus. “The provision for free travel is laudable but it is extremely difficult for people who are wheelchair-bound or have other ortho disabilities to use the service,” said Solanki. He said there needs to be hydraulic lift mechanisms that can help a disabled passenger reach the common floor of the bus. A disabled-friendly ramp which opens automatically and helps such passengers reach the common floor of the bus is also advisable, he said.
Amina Chuvan, a visually impaired resident of Andh Kanya Prakash Gruh (AKPG) in Memnagar said in the absence of any announcement it is difficult to know the bus number at the bus stop. “Moreover the seats allocated for the disabled are never vacant,” she said.
Anita Virani, another resident of AKPG says they count the number of times a bus stops at a station to know if their destination has arrived or not. “Sometimes when a bus driver doesn’t stop at a station, it messes up the counting and we end up getting down at the wrong station,” said Virani. She said the AMTS bus stops are placed in such a way that a large number of vehicles move in and out which makes it accident-prone for people like her. Pravin Chaudhary, a resident of Apang Manav Mandal (AMM) who has had polio in both legs is a regular AMTS user. “You can’t climb the bus with crutches and I always have to take help from others to reach the first step. The rest I crawl,” said Chaudhary.
Vikram Valand, another AMM student, said a ramp or a low-floor bus will be of great help for someone like him who has a 60% disability in both legs.
Bhushan Punani, General Secretary of Blind People’s Association said AMTS services need to be accessible for PWDs. As per the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, the local authority needs to ensure access to all modes of transport for PWDs, he said. This means retrofitting old models of transport, he added. Punani said the BRTS, the new Sachivalay, Swarnim Sankul, Airport, Metro etc are all disabled-friendly.
AMTS Committee Chairman, Vallabh Patel said 800 passes have been issued to date for PWDs and 1,000 more forms have been distributed. “We will work as per the government guidelines and in case of few disabilities, we will direct the conductors/ drivers to announce the stations or help the PWDs,” said Patel.