Bangkok Mass Transit System PCL on Tuesday provided an explanation following an incident on Sunday involving wheelchair-bound activist Manit Inpim.
Manit punched an elevator’s LED panel and shattered the glass at Asok BTS station, and then threatened to sue authorities if improvements were not made to boost accessibility for people with disabilities.
The operator of BTS, or Skytrain, services said in its statement that Manit had refused to sign a form to use the service, which is a requirement under its normal procedures for people with disabilities. He later smashed the lift panel.
The firm said it regretted the incident and affirmed that it had not ignored the reports of inconvenience reported by physically challenged people wanting to use its services. It said it would review the practices involved to make the use of facilities more convenient, with the safety of disabled people in mind.
The firm explained that elevators at BTS stations were divided into two types. The first type, at Mor Chit, Chong Nonsi, Asok and On Nut stations, have operated since 1999 and are designed to allow passengers to board at road level and be transported directly to the platform without stopping at the ticket-selling level.
To use the lift, a procedure was set up based on a discussion at the time among the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), the BTS and the Association of the Physically Handicapped of Thailand that the lifts would be locked. When a disabled passenger wants to use the lift, they press a button to call a staff member, who asks the person to sign a form before taking him/her to the platform level. A staff member at the destination station is alerted so they can be prepared to take the passenger safely to the road level, the firm explained.
The second system, which operates at some original stations and those on extended routes, is open for all passengers’ use and involves two lifts – one to bring people from road level to the ticket-selling level and a second lift within the paid zone to take people from the ticket level to the platform. These lifts don’t require a staff member to escort a disabled passenger, but the ticket booth staff still require the disabled passenger to sign a form to use the service.
The firm said 2,800 people with disabilities commuted by BTS trains on a daily basis – about 20 of whom were wheelchair users. The company insisted that it had installed more equipment to accommodate the disabled, including the connected walkway from Siam station to the Rajaprasong Intersection, the stair lift at National Stadium Station and wheelchair belts on some trains.
The company said it was ready to talk and listen to problems and recommendations from those involved and urged them to express their demands constructively.
Samart Ratchapolsitte, a former Democrat Party MP, posted some suggestions on his Facebook page, urging the BMA, the BTS and the Association of the Physically Handicapped of Thailand to make adjustments to improve accessibility as follows:
1. Building a roof to shelter disabled people from rain and sunshine at the waiting area in front of the elevators and along the ramps leading to the elevators;
2. Installing a ticket-scanning device at the lift waiting area at platform level so the lift doesn’t have to be locked (as it is at Mor Chit and Chong Nonsi), and
3. Installing a card-scanner device at the lift door so only disabled persons with the correct cards could access the elevators without having to wait for BTS staff.