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Sexuality and Disability India

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Through a metal grill, people's feet and a cane on a staircase

Blocked pavement and parked cars: Barriers to #MyAccess

The second day #MyAccess safety walk on December 2nd was organized at Smt. Kumudben Dwarkadas Vora Industrial Home for Blind Women, Andheri, where we have conducted sexuality workshop in the past. Our participants included women with visual impairment from Snehankit and the Industrial home and female students from Wilson and Sophia colleges.

Like the previous day’s safety walk, this one too was carried out in two groups, in each of which a blind girl was paired up with a girl who is sighted. The two groups walked two different routes; one went towards and around Swami Vivekananda Road, the other towards a bridge crossing over Lallu Bhai Park.

Participants said they couldn’t use the pavement to walk because the pavement was at a level higher than usual.

Barriers on the road and pavement included:

  • Cars parked along the road
  • Tea and snacks vendors
  • Small potholes
  • Big potted plants
  • Broken bricks

Gokhale Bridge near Lallu Bhai Park was identified as being unsafe and inaccessible since it is dimly lit, littered with garbage and has ditches.

“My partner smelt and realized that we’re under the bridge, & said that she doesn’t like the place. It’s filled with men at night.”

When the girls were walking under Gokhale Bridge, a man approached them and asked what they are doing; he also asked for their phone numbers, which made them uncomfortable. He followed the girls for some 60 meters. We had to intervene and tell the man to leave us alone after which he finally left.

“He asked us where we were working and what we were doing. He started to ask for our phone numbers. We ignored him and kept walking but he continued to follow.”

On the SV Road route, the girls reported encountering bikers driving rashly which made it difficult for them to cross the road. The girls also reported men ogling at them. We also found one man making a video of the walk to ‘show to his friends‘. We explained the event and eventually got him to delete the video.

Sharing such incidents led the discussion towards consent. Anu Salelkar from Safecity explained to the group about giving and seeking consent when clicking pictures, making videos and speaking to strangers in public.

To end the day, college participants rounded up their experiences from the walk. One of the sighted girls who blind-folded herself for the walk told the group, “I initially felt scared with the noises from traffic. Climbing up and down the pavement was also difficult since I couldn’t predict how tall the pavement is or how deep is a ditch.”

Through #MyAccess campaign, we hope to identify as many barriers to access as possible as well as identify and analyse why certain areas are unsafe in Mumbai. Coming up tomorrow: findings from our safety audit around the KC marg, Bandra reclamation.