The Fight To Be Included

Suryaprakash studies in one of Chennai's few schools equipped to teach students with various disabilities. For the students with mobility challenges, the 300 meter walk from bus stop to school gate is difficult and dangerous. Suryaprakash started a petition on Change.org asking the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) to alter the route of a feeder bus so that his school is better connected to the bus stop. Change.org spoke to him via email. Here are the excerpts:

Tell us why you started this petition

This petition is not about fighting for rights. This petition is not about seeking favours  - small or big. This petition is about inclusion. This petition is about that inclusion, which comes from within and not after someone starts a petition. This petition is about that inclusion that doesn't get come on board only after some 50,000 odd people reminding you about something.

Tell us about a typical journey to school, what difficulty are you facing?

My school is a special school, one of the few that is equipped to teach students with different disabilities. To get to school, I and many of my fellow students use buses run by the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (Chennai) or the MTC. The nearest bus stop is 300 meters away from the school gate.  Although, the distance of 300 meters is not too long, students with mobility challenges including myself find it hard to walk to and from the bus stop.

Have you ever spoken to the bus conductor, driver or any MTC official to alter the bus route?

Do you seriously think, I or anybody else in a similar situation, need to talk to MTC or equivalent officials? Can planners not design the system that takes into considerations for all? The locations of special schools and NGOs is a publicly known data and during route designs, can this data not be an integral part?

How could people support you in reaching your goal?

By displaying and demonstrating to people around that you are for inclusion, by sharing this petition with as many people as possible so that they know you value inclusion & also by bringing in a new mindset to planning  and design. A new approach that would entail planners spending time with disabled persons, observing and perhaps experiencing a share of the devices and tools they use to navigate and then continuing a dialogue further. In this way the disabled person’s authentic experiences remain at the center of the design.