City feels handicapped

City feels handicapped

Disability Audit | Chandigarh Is First To Check If It Is Accessible To People Who Can't See, Hear, Or Walk. GMCH-32 And Social Welfare Department Surveyed It, And Now A TOI Reality Check Exposes The Tricity’s Unseen, Unheard, Unvisited Needs
Hospitals (PGI, GMCH, GMSH)

Diagnosis and prescription

What makes hospitals inaccessible to the people living with a disability?

1. The examination tables and X-ray tables in major hospitals, including the PGI, GMCH-32, and GMSH-16, are not adjustable, which hinders the transfers of obese and disabled patients, or the ones with an injured spine.

2. Despite dedicated parking areas, wheelchairs and trolleys lie scattered in all three major hospitals of Chandigarh and are difficult to find on time.

3. The old blocks of the PGI (Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research) have no disabled-friendly toilet.

Which initiatives can make the city and its hospitals disabled-friendly?

1. Accessibility audit of the city (entire infrastructure) by an independent agency using a structured questionnaire

2. Regular meetings with and feedback from all the workers living with a disability

3. Providing all the medical facilities (laboratories, diagnostic machines, emergency, registration, blood bank, canteen, toilets, and chemist’s shops) at one place on the hospital’s ground floor, preferably.

4. Separate window for registration and payment

5. Social workers and volunteer assistants

6. Having people with disability on accessibility audit teams

Sources | GMCH director principal Dr. B S Chavan, Delhi-based disability activist Dr. Satendra Singh


Chandigarh’s disability report card

8,500+ | People with disability in 2.5-lakh-plus screened houses

5,200+ | Holders of disability card and certificate

.92% | Prevalence of disability in the city

Source | GMCH-32 study

They all count

4,200+ | Crippled

1,700+ | Blind

900+ | Hearing impaired

500+ | Mentally ill

2. Railway station

Waiting for a signal

Required things

1. Separate drop zone

2. The special, low ticket counter

3. Separate parking lot

4. Reserved coaches in the middle of the train instead of at the end or the front, for easy reach

5. Disabled-friendly washrooms in Punjab and Haryana as well

Station check

Ramp at entry and exit points | Check

Two wheelchairs at each gate | Check

Lift and escalators (on Chandigarh side) | Check

Separate drop zone | Missing

Separate parking | Missing

Special washrooms | Missing

Lower ticket counter | Missing

Helpline display | Missing

Quote box:


The Chandigarh station doesn’t have a low ticket counter for divyang people, even though it was proposed in the 2017-18 Union Budget. If not the counter, give us the facility to book a general-class ticket on mobile app or website

Ravinder Sharma | President of Punjab and Chandigarh handicap associations, regular traveler

Budget promise

In the 2017-18 Union budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley had promised 500 disabled-friendly railway stations, including Chandigarh

Railways’ claim

3 | Wheelchairs available at Chandigarh to disabled passengers on showing ID of co-traveler

Ramps | At entry and exit points

Washrooms | On platforms


Social welfare census

14,400+ | Disabled people in Chandigarh

Official point

Navjot Kaur | UT social welfare director

We have identified 50 buildings that people living with disabilities visit frequently. Of those, 39 are now being revamped with money coming in from the central government. The department is making unique disability identity cards for the city

3. Markets

Shop till you drop

The number of disabled people has gone up in the city, so the authorities concerned say they are unable to provide them with enough infrastructure

Inner markets (Sec 7, 8, 9)

Ramps for wheelchair | Missing

Tactile paving for the blind | Not at every public place


Distant cash

The separate parking spaces for us are an illusion. We can’t reach ATMs, conveniences, and public buildings. The onus lies on those who put up those signs.

Harman Sidhu | activist

Step down

My son is unable to move for almost 20 years now. We had a wheelchair for him but there is no place it can go safely. Markets don’t have ramps. The Sukhna Lake has two, but at the main entrance and Nature Interpretation Centre, not in the middle. It has a lot of staircases though.

Karamjeet Singh Randhawa | Sec 34 resident

Bus missed

It is difficult for physically challenged people to use public transport because our buses and bus stops have no ramps

Rupinder Kaur | Runs school for disabled children

Ramp fine, but…

We built a ramp in front of our ATM in Sector 26 for differently abled people. The civic authorities never showed any interest

Inderjit Singh | senior manager of a bank

Steep challenge

It is an ordeal to visit major sectors such as 22 and 35, where ramps are broken or steep and the railings missing. Steel barriers to prevent parking on footpaths also forbid wheelchairs. People park under the wheelchair sign. The people on crutches can’t get into the shops and restaurants of Sector 35 because of the steep steps in the way

Somya Thakur | Has polio

The official take on ramps

Maheshinder Singh Sidhu, councilor, Ward 1

We will look into the issue, though we have discussed it frequently in the past. The code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections is on, so a solution will have to wait.

4. Courts

Witness to change

District courts:

Corridors | Tactile navigation

Stairs | Tactile warning strips to help visually impaired people find their way around with or without a stick

Walls | Steel railings running across complex for instant support

Washrooms | Disabled-friendly with indications in braille

Parking | Separate, reserved, easy to access

Order behind change

The Supreme Court | In March 2018, it gave every state and Union Territory three months to install closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras inside lower courts in at least two districts each

Conference of chief justices, April 2013 | The participants resolved that the high courts should prepare a vision statement for courts along with five-year and annual plans, to make disabled-friendly provisions in a construction plan for court complexes

UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), October 2007 | The Indian government has ratified it

Helpful things

Tactile Tiles | Textured yellow line on the floor that blind people can feel with their feet to find their way

Steel railing | Outside every court to help disabled people walk with support

Tactile strips | For warning blind people about stairs

Ramp | To let wheelchair in

Braille signs | For reserved washrooms

Reserved parking | Close to the main building

5. Schools

Homework incomplete

54% | Schools with ramps

50 | Schools with separate disabled-friendly toilets, out of 114

194 | Vacancies of the special educator in government schools

4,000 | Disabled children in the government schools of Chandigarh


Official defense

On-ramps | Because of cost issues, we could build ramps in only 54% of the schools. All new schools have ramps. Elsewhere, ground floors have been made accessible to the disabled children

On toilets | All new toilet blocks include separate toilets for disabled children. So far, 45 to 50 schools have these separate toilets

On Special educators | We have teachers whom we train from time to time

On disabled students | We give them the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) recommended concessions along with aids, appliances, and home tuition to those who cannot come to school

Note | The bureaucrat source requested for anonymity

TOI idea | In December 2017, TOI had highlighted the shortage of special educators in Chandigarh and proposed 194 posts of a special educator, which the ministry of home affairs is yet to approve

6. Public Offices

Top offices within reach

UT Secretariat, Sector 9:

Ramps at the entrance take a wheelchair to the lift on the ground floor

Lift on both sides

Main lift stops at the fourth floor but the other lift goes till fifth

Estate office, Sec 17

Ramp and lift

RLA, Sec 17

Ramp up to basement in the office of the registration and licensing authority (RLA)

Two entry points

No ramp at the main entrance but the other side has one

The second block that houses a few departments has a ramp

MC building

Disabled-friendly, with a ramp from the parking area to the entrance

Floors reachable by three lifts

Community Centres

Ramps in new buildings, none in the community centers constructed many years ago

Old centers being demolished and the engineering department has kept provision for ramps in the new design

7. Gardens and parks

Access restricted

Easy entrance to many gardens, parks, and green belts in the city

Access problems at a few places that have either revolving or concrete bollard gates

8. Police stations

Law has but one flaw

16 | Police stations in the city, all have ramps for wheelchair

0 | Reserved parking zone for disabled visitors at police stations or headquarters (they have to park far from the office)

Access to seniors | Offices of DGP and SSP in police headquarters have proper ramps

Tactile navigation | Inside the corridors of new police stations

Washrooms| Not disabled-friendly, even in police headquarters

9. Malls and theatres

Fine films but reality different

Only a few of the many shopping malls and movie theatres of Chandigarh give special access to disabled people—this is one of the developed cities of India

Expert view | Asked to suggest the kind of facilities there should be for the physically challenged people, Surender Singh Rawat co-founder of NGO Navchetna, said: “Fully functional wheelchair-friendly lifts are common in the shopping malls of Chandigarh but rare in the city’s cinema houses. Only the large malls have separate urinals for the disabled, while theatres don’t have any. The older the place, the fewer the conveniences. All public places should also have reserved parking spots for disabled people. It’s usual for able-bodied people to park in this space, which is bad citizen behavior.

10. Panjab University

Economics of it forbid Manmohan

Arts blocks on north campus | Have three floors each but no ramp or lift. Pierre Jeanneret designed the blocks between 1958 and 1960 under the general guidance of Le Corbusier

Department of economics | Former prime minister Manmohan Singh returned to the campus after 52 years but could not visit his old department, since it was on the first floor and there was no ramp or lift

Science blocks | Departments of physics and chemistry, along with the University Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences have ramps

BMS (basic medical sciences) blocks I and II on south campus | Have lifts but only because these are new construction

UICET | Named after father of Indian research laboratories Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar, the University Institute of Chemical Engineering and Technology, one of the oldest departments of Panjab University, is not disabled-friendly. Ramps for access to Student Centre from four sides built only last year after TOI raised the issue

Girls’ hostels | Ramps and lifts in even the old buildings. The newly built Neerja Bhanot hostel and the international hostel built in 2016 also have lifts. However, the lifts in old buildings break down frequently.


Campus study

The population of disabled students | Small, but the university formed an equal opportunity cell recently to address their concerns. Its head, Sanjeev Gautam, calls for disability audit of the university

Disability audit | Demanded identifying the problem areas in the PU and create the missing infrastructure.

Rs 1.7 cr | Budget sought from the Union ministry of social justice and empowerment for the audit

Rs 21 lakh | University’s disability budget for 2019-20 fiscal, for buying wheelchairs for all the departments and assistive devices for the blind students, says Gautam

11. Panchkula

Full support missing

For more than two decades, The Disability Act of 1995 has mandated barrier-free access for the differently abled people but Panchkula lacks in that infrastructure

MC office, Sector-14 | Still not disabled-friendly despite huge footfall. No ramp, lift, or disabled-friendly toilet in the entire office

Mini-secretariat, Sector 1 | Seat of Panchkula deputy commissioner (DC), deputy commissioner of police (DCP), senior officers, but has no disabled-friendly toilet. There are lifts but no ramp to the first and second floors

New mini-secretariat | Has toilets, ramps, and lifts for disabled people.

Civil hospital, Sector 6 | Fully disabled-friendly

District court complex | Includes lifts and ramps

Bus stand, Sector 5 | No approach ramp from the main entrance but there’s one behind the bus stand at the RTA (regional transport authority) office

Police stations | A few are disabled-friendly, while many don’t even have basic ramps at the entrance

Parks and markets | Not disabled-friendly, tough for disabled people to visit in routine. Rajesh Mathur, 24, who had dysfunctional legs, said: “It’s difficult for me to enter the parks and markets of Panchkula since those are not disabled-friendly.”

12. Mohali

Unfriendly toilets got to go

The district is not 100% disabled-friendly yet because of tough access to parks, public toilets, and road crossings. The people living with disabilities can’t reach many important places in the city

Public buildings | Most do not have ramps and lifts, so many people with disabilities avoid going there


Parks and gardens | The gates are either zigzag or revolving, which do not let in wheelchairs with ease. Sajjan Singh of Sector 71 said: “I can’t take my disabled father to the nearby garden on a wheelchair, since there’s no room for it to pass through the gate.”

Public toilets | Wheelchair users and people on crutches can’t use any of the public toilets. “Barriers can range from blocked ramps to dysfunctional lifts and multiple steps to the door,” said wheelchair user Charandas.

Road crossings | None designed for wheelchair users. No Pelican light to halt traffic and help them cross over. Kuldeep Singh a differently abled stamp vendor at the administrative complex, said: “People with disabilities need help from attendants or passersby to cross the road. There’s always a danger of being run over, as nobody stops for you.”


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