High Court to Rlys: Visually impaired need human assistance, not wheelchair

The Delhi High Court today wondered how a wheelchair provided by the railway authorities would help a visually-impaired person who requires human assistance in catching a train at a railway station.

The court said a visually or speech impaired person does not require a wheel chair as they walk themselves and need human assistance.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar made the observation while going through a status report filed by the railways that they were providing wheelchairs to differently-abled persons at the station.

The court hearing a PIL initiated on its own after coming across a report that the door of a special compartment for the disabled was shut and such a youth missed his MPhil test at the Delhi University in July last year.

Terming the report as an eye opener, the bench had remarked that even the Delhi University (DU) did not pay attention to the ordeal of the student, Vaibhav Shukla, and telling him that they cannot help him.

During the day, the court was informed by senior advocate S K Rungta rpt S K Rungta, who is assisting in the matter, that disabled persons were asked by the Railways to pay charges for availing wheelchair facilities and they were also not being providing human assistance.

“Why is no free assistance given to the person who needs a wheelchair? What is the purpose of having a wheelchair? If someone is travelling alone, how will they use wheelchair unless you provide them a motorised wheelchair.”

“A visually-impaired persons or a locomotive disabled cannot run around looking for your disability assistance officer. How will a visually impaired person reach the train? A visually or speech impaired person does not need wheelchair. They walk but they need human assistance. Where is human assistance,” it asked.

However, the counsel for Railways and a senior officer said their helpline provides all assistance and also called on the helpline number inside the court itself.

The court noted that though it was mentioned in the status report that services may be arranged on payment basis, railway was giving assistance free of cost along with human assistance to disabled persons, including visually or speech impaired, and senior citizens.

It also asked the authorities to give wide publicity to its ‘Yatri mitra sewa’ which has been introduced at major railway stations for the time being.

The bench was informed by the railways that they have formed a module and started imparting training for sensitising staff regarding differently-abled persons.

The court also asked them to place the roster through which the training module is being implemented and take the assistance of Nipun Malhotra, a disability rights activist who suffers from a locomotor disability, to impart training.

According to reports, the student had attempted to board the Gorakhdham Express operated by the North-Eastern Railway at the Unnao railway station in Uttar Pradesh on July 5 last year to appear in the entrance exam for the MPhil course conducted by the DU.

When he tried to board the coach reserved for disabled persons which was next to the engine, the persons occupying the compartment refused to open the door, it had said.

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