My name is Vinayana Khurana, and I’m a postgraduate student from University of Delhi. I am a woman with disability. I have cerebral palsy, but that is not my identity – I am much more than that. I am a writer, a poet and an avid traveller. I love to travel by car and on my wheelchair. In fact, my motorised wheelchair is my best companion, and I love to travel independently.
As a young Indian woman, though, I really don’t feel that the roads of my city – New Delhi – are accessible to me and my wheelchair. The issue isn’t just about roads in India being physically accessible – that’s just one part of it. Just stepping out of the house, for people like me, needs to be encouraged to a large extent. There are social barriers in place, which prevent people like me from using roads freely and independently. These are often a result of the physical barriers that we’re not ridding our roads of.
At 24 years, I haven’t yet tried stepping out of my apartment, alone. There are several reasons for this – and none of them are being talked about enough. For instance, it was just yesterday, when I went out with my mother, I encountered so much to discourage my venturing out. I was on my wheelchair and as usual, the traffic was really harsh. The roads were so uneven, I could not move my wheelchair easily.
Added to this is the fact that over 1,37,000 people were killed in road accidents in 2013 alone – more than the number of Indians killed in war altogether, according to a post I read. And that’s just one of the reasons why my parents feel it’s unsafe to let me go out, alone.
I wish that my city could be more accessible. Currently, it even lacks proper footpaths, for me to move with ease. There are so many laws to protect pedestrians like me on the roads, but they’re not properly enforced. It makes me wonder, if this is the capital city of India, how much worse the situation in other Indian cities could be.
I sometimes wish my city was more like the cities abroad – where wheelchair users can move freely and the way they want to. They have planned their cities, markets and pavements in such a way that a wheelchair user can use it easily. After all, isn’t living independently and without fear for my life in public spaces a right granted to me by the Indian Constitution?
It is high time now that we bring a change in the country’s infrastructure, with the needs of people with disabilities taken into account. I want better laws, more inclusive provisions that guarantee my freedom of movement and give me a life of dignity and independence. I want my Acche Din now, not tomorrow. I have to stand up for my own rights or else, who will?