BENGALURU: Come September-end and eight popular spots on Church Street like Amoeba Bowling Alley, restaurants in Barton Centre and pizza joints will be revamped to have entrances and seating that will be accessible to Persons with Disability (PwD) and the elderly.
The driving force behind the makeover is Prateek Khandelwal, a wheelchair-bound man. His startup, RampMyCity, founded in 2018, will provide simple and impactful infrastructural solutions — like ramps and grab bars — for inclusion of people facing a physical challenge.
Khandelwal says Ramp-MyCity’s project on Church Street aims to help people with disabilities walk around the street and enjoy every bit of it, without any hurdles. His startup is helping buildings and establishments become disabled friendly with only add-on fixtures and without the need to break anything.
“Through this project, Church Street will be one of the most wheelchair-friendly streets of India by having a bank, a book store, cafes, various eateries, pubs, many commercial establishments and a disabled-friendly washroom – all accessible by wheelchair users,” he says, adding: “It only helps more because Church Street is already accessible with BBMP and architect Naresh Narsimhan putting in good work on the pavement and cobbled road. I don’t need any assistance to go from one point to another here.” The new facilities will be unveiled sometime next week, he said.
Khandelwal’s journey in creating spaces accessible to PwD began when he realised going out to meet friends for coffee or drinks, or simply use an ATM was not a walk in the park for wheelchair users. Khandelwal, who was a granite exporter, was bound to a wheelchair after he met with an accident in 2014 and injured his spinal cord. After three to four years of physiotherapy and exercise, it was in 2017 that he grew confident and accepted the wheelchair as a part of his life.
“In 2017, when I wanted to go out to meet my friends, I realised that so many public spaces were inaccessible to wheelchair users,” he says, adding that he began digging into laws and regulations on PwD’s accessibility to spaces.
“Though there were some things on paper, I knew there was nothing on the ground and it would not change in a day or even for a long time ahead. In 2018, I decided to be a part of the solution and started an initiative #RampMyCity. I reached out to restaurants to install ramps in their spaces and in three months, seven to eight of them made the changes,” the 35-year-old says. But he soon realised that these ramps were not usable. They were either too steep, ended abruptly or had a wall at the end.
That’s when he founded his startup that aims to provide end-to-end solutions — designing usable ramps, training the staff to help and attend to PwD and how to talk to them, etc.
To date, RampMyCity has helped 40 restaurants, schools, colleges and even government buildings transform in the city