The only reserved toilet for persons with disabilities at the Majestic bus station has zero provisions such as wheelchair, ramp, low height washbasin and anti-skid tiles.

news Disability Monday, November 26, 2018 - 11:59

The sprawling Kempegowda bus station in Bengaluru, also known as Majestic, that extends up to 7.5 acres with around 19,000 buses plying on a daily basis, has only one toilet reserved for persons with disabilities. While there are four toilets for gents and three for ladies, there is one common ‘handicap’ toilet for disabled men, women and transgender people. And this toilet lacks the basic amenities that are required by persons with disabilities.

Poor state of the ‘handicap’ toilet

Firstly, there are no signboards in the bus station to direct persons with disabilities to the toilet earmarked for them. A person is required to look for the signboards of the regular toilets and check if they have a toilet reserved for a person with disabilities near it.

Secondly, the toilet doesn’t have any provisions to make it accessible for such persons. Even basic requirements such as dustbin, sink, wall hook to hang bags and a fully functioning flush and health faucet are missing. Some integral features of a disabled friendly bathroom are low height washbasins, anti-skid tiles and long handlebars for support. But the dishevelled ‘handicap’ toilet at Majestic has none of these facilities, except for one handle next to the commode and another one awkwardly placed near a tap.

The toilet doesn’t have a wheelchair or a ramp, adding to its inaccessibility. “Different people with disabilities, depending on their level of physical limitations, have different needs. Some are comfortable with an Indian toilet and others need a Western one along with a wheelchair. But public places have only a commode. Also, the toilets are so filthy that it has led to the spread of injections in many cases,” said Kiran Nayak, Social Worker and disabled rights activist.

The Swachh Bharat Mission in 2015, released a handbook on ‘Accessible Household Sanitation for Persons with Disabilities’. Some of the major necessities mentioned in the list include: firm and wide ramp, even surface for wheelchair landing, slopes as per norms, water supply easily accessible to the visually and ambulant disabled and tactile cues on the railing outside and on support bars inside the toilet. However, the plight of the ‘handicap’ toilet at the Majestic bus station tell a different story.

Thirdly, the ‘handicap’ toilet is dirty and smelly, as there is no one specifically assigned to clean it. Since this toilet is next to the ladies toilet, it is the duty of the ladies toilet janitor to maintain both. “I am the only one in charge of cleaning and collecting money from the customers in the ladies toilet. So I don’t have the time to wash the ‘handicapped’ toilet regularly. But I do wash it whenever I can,” said Hengatamma, the janitor of the ladies toilet next to the ‘handicap’ one.

Since the ladies toilet is smaller than that of the men’s, there is only one janitor in each of the ladies toilets. However, there are two persons working in the men’s toilet, one to collect the money and another to clean. “The ladies toilet gets crowded as it is small. But the authorities fail to understand this,” said Mahalakshmi, ladies toilet janitor. Many woman passengers at the bus station agreed with her. There are only three ladies toilets, which are smaller in size as opposed to the four big men’s toilet. “The toilet gets crowded as even the transgender people use the women’s toilet. Thus we require another ladies toilet”, said Kamakshi, a passenger.

Women with disability face a lot of trouble when they have to visit toilets in public places. Most of them avoid using the toilet because of the inconvenience involved. “I’m used to not being able to access toilets in public spaces from the time I was a child. So I use the toilet before leaving home and then I just control my water intake. Also because of not relieving myself for long hours, I have developed kidney stones,” said Sindoora, a passenger at Majestic bus station. When asked about why she doesn’t use the toilet reserved for persons with disabilities, she said that it is too dirty and unhygienic.

Lack of government effort

The Lok Sabha passed ‘The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill’ in 2016, replacing the existing Persons with Disability Act of 1995. However, the situation and public accessibility for the disabled have failed to improve. Commenting on this, Ravi G, a disabilities rights activist said “People are not sensitive towards the needs of the disabled. In most public places, the toilets reserved for us is locked. Even the district disability office in Bengaluru doesn’t have a toilet for the disabled.”

Kiran Nayak said that since 2014, they have repeatedly placed 14 demands before the Karnataka State Commissioner for Persons with Disability. One of their demands is the construction of disabled friendly toilets in public places. “It has been four years but we have not seen any results. Bengaluru is the capital of the state with a growing population, but it’s a pity that even here there are no facilities for persons with disabilities,” Kiran added.