A WHEELCHAIR-BOUND activist, who punched a lift LED panel and shattered the glass at the BTS Asok Station in Bangkok on Sunday afternoon, yesterday threatened to sue authorities if improvements were not made to boost accessibility for people with disabilities.
Manit “Saba” Inpim, founder and administrator of the “Accessibility Is Freedom” Facebook page advocating for the rights of people with disabilities, said that if the Transport Ministry failed to commit to solve problems regarding accessibility at BTS stations, he would next week sue the ministry, the BTS and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
Manit also said he had punched the panel after a security guard insisted on him adding his name to a list of disabled people using the lift, something he viewed as a basic right.
He said he was in a hurry and had therefore bought a Rabbit card, despite the fact that wheelchair-bound people can use the trains for free, so he could waive the requirement to sign the form, but was still told to sign and wait. He said Asok was the only BTS station that insisted on disabled people signing such a form.
After waiting for five minutes for a lift which did not arrive, he punched the panel in frustration at the infringement of his rights when travelling, he said.
After the Sunday incident, Manit reported himself to police about the property damage. He then posted pictures and an account of the incident, which captured public attention.
In his post yesterday morning to inform the public he would talk to the media at the BTS Asok Station, Manit also encouraged people to look at his previous posts about problems associated with BTS elevators for people with disabilities.
In one article, he said an elevator design allowed passengers to board at the road and be transported directly to the platform without having to buy a ticket, affecting security and prompting staff to keep it locked.
It is only accessible when a passenger pushes a button and staff unlock the door, which forces the person to wait in an area that is not sheltered from the rain or sun. Manit said the design showed how little consideration BTS engineers had for disabled people during their design process.
Meanwhile, an administrator of the Facebook community page BKKTrains.com posted that he agreed that the BTS lifts had to be improved for better accessibility, but disagreed with the violent act, which could affect other people trying to access the lift.
The unidentified administrator added that he suspected the incident might have stemmed from the station not having enough staff to serve passengers at the time. When the BTS started operations in December 1999, only five stations at Mor Chit, Asok, On Nut, Chong Nonsi and Siam were equipped with elevators.
All except for the Siam station lifts allowed passenger to proceed directly to the train platform and had locked doors. In 2015, the Administrative Court ordered Bangkok authorities and the BTS to install lifts at all 23 stations, but the work is still ongoing.
Some stations have been equipped with new lifts that do not have locked doors, while Mor Chit and Chong Nonsi have been modified to have ticket scanners at the lift door.