A five-day-long campaign to increase safety for women with disabilities, canvassing across five different areas in the city, was flagged off on Tuesday, 1 December. Organised by Safecity and Point of View the initiative ‘#MyAccess’ aims to gather data on unfriendly areas for disabled people in Mumbai.
According to Anu Salelkar, Project Officer, Safecity, the campaign will kick-start in the form of safety walks in five of Mumbai’s busiest areas from 1 to 5 December, to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
“Spread across Dadar, Andheri, Bandra, Sion and Worli, the safety walks would see disabled as well as non-disabled women walk together and report on the safety and accessibility aspect of the area they cover,” explained Salelkar.
The first walk that happened on 1 December, saw about 20 visually impaired participants from National Association for Blind (NAB) and 25 sighted participants from colleges like St. Xavier’s, Wilson and Sophia took part in the project.
Around 11 teams, one visually impaired participant and one sighted participant, were tagged for a 1.5 km walk from NAB, Worli. “Inputs were generated and we have realised that around 90 per cent of Mumbai is inaccessible for disabled people,” Anupam Newgi of the Paraplegic Foundation said.
Gender and disability rights activist, Nidhi Goyal of Point of View, said that, for a woman with disability to walk on the street means it has to be accessible in terms of disability specific markings and safe in terms of navigating as a woman. She added, “The woman and the disabled are two parts of me, and it is important to consider both aspects to make the city more friendly for someone like me.”
As per the organizers, the Safety walks are an important tool to understand what structural issues make a space safe or unsafe.
First year BMM student, Aashi Rathod from St. Xavier’s college said that, other foreign cities, like Dubai, are more disabled friendly than Mumbai.
“The city lacks disabled friendly roads, special markings, signal stop buttons, siren indicator, etc. The country needs to make urban cities friendly for disabled people as well,” Rathod said, while adding that safety is also a serious concern for women in Mumbai.
Another participant, Mahzbeen Kayani from Wilson College, said that the opportunity came after being inspired by a BMM professor.
“No city in Maharashtra or street is safe or accessible for visually impaired individuals. City needs to be sensitised over such issues. It also upsetting to see normal people just look at the visually impaired, but hesitate to help,” Kayani said.
#MyAccess is organized by Point of View and SafeCity as part of 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. Through this safety sprawl they aim to expand the conversation around safety to include the experiences of women with disabilities in public spaces.