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Sexuality and Disability India

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A group of girls, seen from the back, walking on the footpath at night

Dark lanes and low civic sense: Barriers to #MyAccess

For the last day of the #MyAccess campaign, we went to Smt Kamla Mehta Dadar School for the Blind, where we have also conducted sexuality workshop in the past. Our participants included students from St. Xavier’s College and students of Kamla Mehta School. They introduced each other with a meet and greet session.

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 with a sighted girl from Xavier. One pair included a blind-folded girl and a sighted one.
Eight pairs went on Route 1 towards the Dadar station on Dadasaheb Phalke Marg and the other nine pairs went on Route 2 in the opposite direction.

Participants reported the following issues in the area:

  • Traffic signal not visible to the non-sighted. So, there must be an alternative auditory signal to help the people with visual impairment cross the road
  • Vendors blocking the pavement and parts of the road especially on the route leading to Dadar station
  • Narrow Roads especially because of the traffic congestion and vendors
  • Parked vehicles near the pavement blocked their way
  • Trees made the already dark lanes darker and this made the lanes more unsafe
  • Steps, ditches and potholes increased their feeling of unsafety
  • People walk on the wrong side of the road. This leads to more chaos and people bumping with each other.

During the de-briefing session, a participant felt that people should be more sensitive to the blind persons on the road. A girl said, “People walk absent-mindedly and bump into us.”

“If the signal turns green for twenty seconds for pedestrians, ten seconds out of these are taken up by rash bikers. This is not right. People should follow traffic rules.”

The girl who volunteered to walk blind-folded while narrating her experience said that her sense of smell and hearing felt stronger than her sense of sight. Her partner also told the gathering that while the non-sighted girls were more confident walking, her blind-folded partner was less confident and afraid.

Nidhi Goyal of Point of View summarized the day. She said, “Kamla Mehta school’s girls will go to college in a few years. You will have to then think about the number of crossings because you might need to seek help. Sometimes you will need to seek help from men. You might have not needed help if there were facilities (such as auditory signals).”

To the Xavier’s girls, she said, “You are in college now but someday you will have to travel to new places for projects, go to isolated lanes and feel unsafe.”

“Most people are non-disabled, so we make facilities according to them. So, when someone who is disabled asks for facilities for accessibility, it is considered “extra”. This is not the case. Accessibility helps all. We need to become more inclusive in our understanding of accessibility”, she concluded.