The criticism comes even as the state has been made party to a PIL in the Madras HC on the provision of ramps across beaches in Chennai.

Proposed 10 years ago still no ramps in Chennai beaches for persons with disability
news Accessibility Tuesday, December 10, 2019 - 17:43

The Tamil Nadu government has come under fire from activists and persons with disabilities in Chennai over unkept promises of building a permanent ramp to access the city’s beaches. Despite multiple assurances over three years and protests over the exclusion of persons with disabilities from public spaces, the Chennai corporation has dragged its feet on taking action. The criticism comes even as the state has been made party to a PIL in the Madras High Court on the provision of ramps across beaches. 

Speaking to TNM, S Nambu Rajan, General Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC), says that even the courts that are meant to scrutinise the proper implementation of laws, are inaccessible to persons with disabilities. 

“The proposal to build a ramp has been there for over 10 years. The place where the legal case is ongoing i.e. the court itself is inaccessible. There are judges, lawyers and other legal professionals who live with disabilities. Accessibility is not just about ramps at the beach. The Tamil Nadu government passed a GO in 2013 stating that it would make important government buildings accessible to persons with disabilities. Despite being mandated by law, there is no allocation for this in the budget, nor is there political will.”

Recently, on the International Day of Disabled Persons, a ramp was installed at the Marina beach in Chennai for a period of 24 hours. Students living with disabilities had been taken on a joyride on the city’s metro. Activists, however, have urged the government to move beyond the tokenism and effect accessible government policies.

Owing to the fact that the beach area falls under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms, the Tamil Nadu State Coastal Zone Management Authority (TNSCZMA) is dependent on the Union government for clearance under the 2018 CRZ notification. However, according to an email exchange between the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA) and the Chennai Corporation, the NGO said that the Deputy Director in-charge of granting CRZ clearance explained that the central agency would not be able to process any proposal unless it is uploaded via the transparency portal for environment clearances. Despite reminders for the same from the Union government in July 2019, the Chennai Corporation is yet to upload the proposal for the ramp at the Marina. This has resulted in further delays in securing a clearance for the ramp to access the beach.

“We urge you to upload both the proposals at the earliest - as we have repeatedly stated from start that the disability community's preferred sites are the police booth in Elliots beach and Gandhi statue / usual lighthouse temporary path venue on Marina Beach,” the group said. 

Further, activists have also demanded the placement of portable mobimats, beach wheelchairs, floating waterwheels, ocean ramps, sand buggies, accessible toilets, accessible signage and reserved parking in addition to the stationing of specially-trained lifeguards.

On Tuesday, a Bench of Justices N Kirubakaran and P Velmurugan of the Madras High Court, asked the Tamil Nadu government and the Chennai Corporation to file their responses within a week to the PIL seeking a permanent ramp at the Marina. 

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