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Tuesday, 18 February 2014
Toilets for the Differently-abled Stink of Apathy : Bangalore
While the city is growing at an alarming pace and new people-friendly
amenities are ensured at all public places, Bangalore is still not
friendly to one set of its citizens - the disabled. Shopping centres,
especially high-end malls as well as bus and railway stations are yet to
provide proper amenities which are friendly to the disabled.
Toilets in malls and bus stations which are reserved for the handicapped are often ignored by authorities concerned
Express picked five malls and four bus stops from across the city for a
quick spot check on whether they’ve followed the Central Public Works
Department (CPWD), Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment’s guidelines
on architecture and planning of public spaces - with a focus on public
toilets in these spaces. What we found was a huge gap between mandated
guidelines and actual practice.
According to the guidelines, ‘one
special Water Closet (WC) in a set of toilet shall be provided for the
use of handicapped with essential provision of wash basin near the
entrance. Suitable arrangement of vertical/horizontal handrail has to be
provided in the toilet’.
The five malls taken into consideration
were Forum (Koramangala), Garuda mall (Magrath road), Mantri mall
(Malleshwaram), Swagath Garuda (Jayanagar) and 1 MG mall (Trinity
While Forum, one of the oldest malls in the city, did not
have a separate washroom for the handicapped, they provide a wheelchair
within the premises. Swagath Garuda and Garuda mall (Magrath road)
both had separate toilets for the differently-abled, but were shut and
unavailable for use.
At Swagath Garuda, Byrasandra, 3rd Block
East, a person who is physically challenged will have to locate the
supervisor of the house-keeping staff to gain access to the otherwise
locked toilet. “We open it even for old people upon request. It’s well
maintained, but we prefer to lock it as when the gents and ladies
toilets are full, someone might use this one. And as both men and women
can use the toilet for the disabled, it might create a problem,” said
one of the maintenance staff, implying that the arrangement could lead
to incidents of sexual harassment.
While Mantri Mall had a clean,
spacious and usable toilet, they had overlooked the need for hand rails.
For most people, the idea of a toilet for the physically disabled just
means a WC in a spacious room, large enough to fit a wheelchair. Hand
rails, cleanliness, wash basins, even water availability is not
accounted for, and more often than not, these toilets remain locked.
the five malls City Express visited, 1 MG mall was the only public
space that provided a WC along with a wash basin as well as hand rails
The four bus stops that went under the scanner were
Majestic, Shivaji Nagar, Jayanagar 4th block, and Shanti Nagar (double
road) bus stops.
While Majestic maintains a fairly clean separate
toilet for the physically disabled, albeit without hand rails, at
Shivaji Nagar we were greeted by a positively hostile caretaker who
refused to open the locked toilet, citing that the place is ‘too unclean
and does not even have a water connection yet’. The Shanti Nagar
(Double Road) bus stop had two separate toilets for the physically
disabled, one for men and the other for women - while the women’s toilet
was not in working condition, the men’s toilet was kept open for both
men and women to use.
However, the toilet had neither a seat nor a
back rest. And when we visited the bus stand in Jayanagar, the
disabled-friendly toilet was occupied. However, upon enquiry, we found
that one of the staff was using it to take bath. “Wait for a while,” he said, “The bathroom will soon be vacant.”
While the washroom seems to be functional, those for whom it’s meant might not be able to make use of it.