The Tamil Nadu government had received huge praise in May when it announced that women in the state can travel in government buses free of cost. Subsequently, the request for free travel for trans women and persons with disabilities was also made to the government. Following this, the government granted the request. In an order released on Wednesday, the government said that persons with disabilities can travel in state-owned buses free of cost, both in urban and rural regions. Another person is allowed to accompany them for assistance while traveling, who is also allowed to travel freely.
‚ÄúThe PwDs can show their government issued identity card to the bus conductor for free travel,‚ÄĚ the order said. Many welcomed the move. Alwin, a private school teacher and a person with disability in Kancheepuram said, "I can now travel without worrying about my daily travel expenses. This certainly allows many persons with disabilities, especially those from marginalised communities, to venture outside and access opportunities."
While activists have welcomed the move of the state government, they point out that the infrastructure still has a long way to go, in terms of accessibility. ‚ÄúThe Tamil Nadu government announcing free bus travel for Persons with Disability (PwD) is a significant step towards inclusivity. However, along with free travel, the government should also consider bringing in disability-friendly buses across the state, as many PwDs cannot access ordinary buses,‚ÄĚ says TMN Deepak, a disability rights activist and state president of the ‚ÄėDecember 3 Movement‚Äô in Tamil Nadu.
Deepak says that the accessibility of transport for persons with disabilities can be divided into three parts ‚ÄĒ physical access, process access and product access. In this particular case, physical access is having a bus or other means of cheap transport for persons with disabilities to travel. Process access is having enough disability-friendly buses and bus stands in close proximity. Lastly, product access is the ticket expenditure.
‚ÄúHaving a bus to travel alone is not enough. For a person with disabilities, the facility is wasteful if it cannot be accessed. Free travel will prove disadvantageous if the buses are not disability-friendly and the bus stands are far off. Lastly, inclusivity from the government and public is paramount for us if we are using the facility,‚ÄĚ added Deepak.