A wheelchair-accessible pathway from the south gate of Victoria Memorial to the museum galleries will be formally opened on Friday.
December 3 is celebrated as International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The south gate is near the base of the AJC Bose Road flyover. Till now, the journey from the gate to the galleries meant treading on a base of gravel, practically inaccessible for a wheelchair.
The new 384-m ‘barrier-free access pathway’ made of a cement base topped with a layer of tiles, includes a ramp.
“This was long due. The pandemic stalled it but it should have happened much earlier,” said Jayanta Sengupta, secretary and curator of Victoria Memorial Hall.
Tourist attractions in Kolkata have been found lagging when it comes to being inclusive.
Accessibility is largely limited to ramps and Braille signage at many places. Assistance for visitors with cognitive challenges is a tall ask. Also missing is staff sensitisation.
The difference is starker when compared to similar places abroad which offer a range of services — from accessibility guidebook to allowing assistance animals — to make the places inclusive.
The road from the north gate of Victoria Memorial, on Queen’s Way, to the galleries is still gravel-ridden. “We will eventually have an accessible walkway from the north gate as well,” said an official of the museum.
The new gallery in the first floor, which will be opened for visitors soon, will also be out of bounds for many differently abled visitors because of the lift leading to the gallery.
“It is an antique lift. We need to replace it with two new capsule lifts to make the gallery accessible,” said Sengupta.
The new walkway project will be dedicated to the memory of the museum’s former secretary and curator, Professor Hirendranath Chakrabarti (1930-2021). The project has been executed by “generous grants” from Chakrabarti’s son, Suma Chakrabarti, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said Sengupta.
Swarupa Bandyopadhyay and Priyanka Dey, both faculty members of Presidency University in the departments of Bengali and philosophy, respectively, will be present during the inauguration on Friday.