Now, disabled-friendly Agra eases Taj experience

By Brij Khandelwal, IANS,

Agra : Over the years, disabled visitors who came to see the Taj Mahal could only gaze at it from the entrance. Now, thanks to the efforts of the authorities they will be able to get a closer and more intimate view of the magnificent monument to love.

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The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has responded to the needs of physically challenged tourists by constructing nine ramps at various points in the complex. This is the latest in a series of initiatives that have been taken here for improving the quality of life of the disabled.

The ramps apart, a dozen wheelchairs are also made available to enable the physically challenged to move conveniently around the Taj complex.

Munazzar Ali, an ASI official at the Taj, told IANS: “Foreign tourists usually come with their own motorised wheelchairs and freely move around without assistance, but the domestic tourists use the wheelchairs provided by us. Nine ramps of different sizes and lengths have been constructed, the longest one being 48 feet.”

“As many as 25 physically challenged tourists visit the Taj daily. Now that people know that the Taj has become disabled-friendly, more such tourists are likely to visit the monument,” Ali added.

The Taj Mahal apart, this city has generally been disabled-friendly with ample facilities and opportunities for rehabilitation of both mentally and physically challenged.

While governmental efforts have been largely confined to opening schools for the physically challenged and fixing quotas of jobs in the public sector, it is the NGOs and philanthropists of the city who have filled the void.

Rita Agarwal’s TEARS, the school for the disabled she founded almost two decades ago, has provided help to parents of disabled children. The school for the blind at the Soor Sarovar has also, over the years, helped disabled students wanting to acquire skills and education.

The government school in the Vijay Nagar colony for the deaf and dumb has also been imparting education to physically challenged children from poor families.

Social activist Mukesh Jain, the initiator of a health helpline, says: “There was a time when people with physical disabilities were looked down upon and often sidelined. But now society is becoming more open and tolerant. With expert help from specialists many disabilities are better managed today.”

“The chief cause of increasing rate of physical disabilities is road accidents. As the number of vehicles on the roads is shooting up phenomenally the cases of accidents have also multiplied,” says medical activist Sanjay Chaturvedi.