Skytrain will make lifts 'more accessible' to disabled

Rights activist Manit Inthapapim explains Sunday's incident, in which he punched and broke the glass access door to an elevator at Asoke BTS station. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

The Bangkok Mass Transit System, operator of the skytrain, on Tuesday promised to make facilities for the disabled more accessible following Sunday’s rage attack on a locked glass elevator door at Asoke BTS station by a wheelchair-bound rights activist.

Anat Arbhabirama, chairman of BTSC advisory board, said the disabled man, Mr Manit Intharapim, had refused to sign a form to use an elevator at Asoke BTS station, which was a required normal procedure.

The angry passenger then punched and broke the glass elevator door to the lift. The incident happened  around 8.15pm on Sunday.

Mr Manit, the 50-year-old director of the "Accessibility Is Freedom'' equal rights organisation, admitted on Monday that he lost his temper and broke the glass door in front of an elevator on the second floor of  Asoke station.

He said he was asked to sign a form confirming he was disabled, so he could use the  services at the station for free. 

He had refused to sign and went to purchase a one-way ticket, but he was still denied access to the lift. The door remained locked to him.  

Mr Anat said the firm regretted the incident, and it had not ignored the problem. The company would make access easier for people with physical disabilities, and take their safety into greater consideration. He added that BTS had not taken any action against Mr Manit over the incident.

He said there were two types of elevators at BTS stations. The first were for disabled passengers, were installed at Mor Chit, Chong Nonsi, Asoke and On Nut stations and had been in use since 1999, the same year the skytrain began running.

However, there was a requirement regarding their use that had been agreed to by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, BTS and the Association of the Physically Handicapped of Thailand - that the lifts would be locked. When a disabled passenger wanted to use an elevator, they must press a button to call a staff member, who would ask them to sign a form for use of the facility. The staff member would then take the disabled passenger to the platform, he said.

The second kind were installed only at some some stations and were for all passengers. There were two of these - a lift to take passengers from road level to the ticket-sales floor, which was outside the platform entry styles, and a second inside the ticket-only zone to take passengers to the platform.

Passengers were not required to press a button, but a disabled passenger using it was still required to sign a form to use the services of a staff member, Mr Anat said.

He said about 2,800 people with disabilities used BTS trains each day, of whom 20 were wheelchair-bound.

Over the years, BTS had installed equipment to assist disabled passengers, such as the connected walkway from Siam station to Ratchaprasong station, a stair lift for the disabled at National Stadium  station, and wheelchair safety belts on trains.

Mr Anat said the firm was ready to hold talks and listen to problems and recommendations from all people. He asked them to express their needs in a constructive manner, which would ensure users a participating role in making travel safe, convenient and fast for everyone,  he said.


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