If you think crossing the street in Pattaya is risky, imagine how dangerous it is for the disabled.
In a city where drivers ignore pedestrian crossing signals and speed limits are a bad punch line, just getting to a market 500 meters away can be a life-threatening adventure for the blind or those in wheelchairs.
Udomchok Churat, director of the Pattaya Redemptorist School, said students are often at the mercy of sighted or non-disabled volunteers to help them reach local shops on Soi Yume, a half-kilometer away.
In fact, Udomchok said, students are only permitted off school grounds for an hour on Tuesdays and Thursdays; and during daylight hours only on weekends. Even then, he said, one student already has been hit by a speeding motorbike this year.
Students with disabilities sometimes have a tough time in front of the school, as they need to wait for kind drivers to allow them to cross the road.
“Students need to experience the world for themselves, but it is a challenge,” he said. In the case of the Soi Yume Market, there is no parking for shoppers, leading to people parking illegally on the street, narrow lanes and traffic jams.
“The area doesn’t have a sidewalk for elderly people, children and people with disabilities,” Udomchok continued. “We wish everyone would realize that reckless driving can lead to accidents with other people or vehicles.”
He said if the city is serious about investing in facilities for the disabled, it will solve the traffic problem. On the other hand, Udomchok said, “If all people care about is buying the latest high-tech toys, the disabled will continue to suffer and their human right to independent travel trampled upon.”