For a country that has over 21 million differently-abled people, it is mind boggling how little India is doing for their inclusion. Insufficient attention or the lack of therein, towards their welfare and ease of access especially when travelling is a serious cause for concern.
Standard Chartered has taken up this latest cause under its ‘Seeing is Believing’ initiative in partnership with Anuprayaas and Samarthanam Trust. As part of the project, the trio will work for the transformation of 30 Indian railway stations into disabled-friendly ones. The main objective lies in empowering differently-abled people by reducing their dependence on others when travelling. This will allow them to travel independently with the dignity they rightfully deserve.
The proposed railway stations will include facilities that will aid people with visual disabilities, hearing disabilities and wheelchair users. Some of the provisions include:
Railways are considered the lifeline of Indian hinterland. Over 23 million people travel daily in its bogies and a considerable section of them are differently-abled. Affordability makes railways the preferred mode of public transport despite the unavailability of disabled-friendly facilities.
This is not the first rodeo for the three involved in this project. Standard Chartered launched the Seeing is Believing (SiB) initiative in 2003, as an employee-driven fundraiser. The goal at that time was to deliver 28,000 sight restoring surgeries – one for every employee at the time. Over the course of 17 years, the project changed the lives of 250 million people across the globe.
Anuprayaas is a Bengaluru-based social organization that has taken on similar projects before. It had a hand in the creation of the first-ever blind-friendly railway station in Mysuru. Another initiative was making Pune railway station more disabled-friendly by installing Braille signs, ramps and informative videos with sign language.
Karuna Bhatia, Head of Sustainability, India, Standard Chartered, was upbeat about the joint project. “While there is still a long way to go, this project under our Seeing is Believing initiative, reaffirms our commitment to increasing accessibility and dismantling barriers for people with disabilities,” he added.