Sara Rotenberg
Irfan Nooruddin


In 1995, India passed the Persons with Disabilities Act to legislate the principles and requirements of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities. As part of this, the Government of India boldly committed to achieving universal design in its public transit systems. Despite legal provisions for ensuring accessibility of public transport and strong harmonized guidelines, Mumbai’s suburban rail network lacks adequate considerations for people with disabilities. From limited elevators and ramps to uneven surfaces and unmarked pathways, the suburban rail system is notoriously dangerous for people with disabilities, and a recent audit suggests that fewer than 40% of railway stations are compliant with accessibility standards. However, inaccessibility is not limited to decades-old transit systems: even the recently constructed Mumbai Monorail and Metro Line One enact only some, not all of the required accessibility standards. With its Metro currently under construction, Mumbai has the opportunity to prioritize universal design, which is a cost-effective, inclusive method, and avoid previous accessibility mistakes, which are exclusionary and inefficient. This paper reviews the current state of transport accessibility across Mumbai’s existing networks in the context of established best practices around the world to suggest ways to strengthen accessibility in constructing the new Metro. It argues that in order to achieve the government’s publicly stated commitment to universal accessibility in this next generation of rail, the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority should host consultations with people with disabilities, use architects with universal design training, and implement the guidelines for barrier-free built spaces outlined by the Central Ministry of Urban Development. These steps must also be complemented by applying the same principles in concerted effort to tackle the issue of inaccessibility on Mumbai’s streets and existing rail lines to achieve universal accessibility and greater opportunities for people with disabilities.


Read the full article in accessible html-format here.


How to Cite
Rotenberg, S. and Nooruddin, I. (2022) “Getting on Track: Accessibility Policy and the Design of the Mumbai Metro”, The Journal of Public Space, 7(2), pp. 29–40. doi: 10.32891/jps.v7i2.1482.
Author Biographies

Sara Rotenberg, University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences

Sara Rotenberg is a DPhil Student at the University of Oxford studying how to improve health care for people with disabilities through better health worker training. She graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Georgetown University with a degree in Global Health. At Georgetown, she was awarded the Outstanding Student Award for the School of Nursing and Health Studies and named the school’s first Rhodes Scholar. Previously, she worked with the Embassy of Canada to the United States, the WHO, the World Bank, Health Canada, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in various health equity and international development-focused positions. Sara has also worked extensively in India to make the Mumbai Metro more accessible, improve irrigation governance, and develop a collapsible, transportable stool for persons with disabilities.

Irfan Nooruddin, Georgetown University, Walsh School of Foreign Service

IIrfan Nooruddin is the Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Indian Politics in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and Senior Director of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center. He is the author of three books and thirty-plus articles and chapters. His research is centered on problems of economic development, conflict resolution, democratization, and governance.



Collective For Spatial Alternatives & Indian Center for Human Rights Law (2017) Accessibility Audit of the Mumbai Suburban Railway Stations.

Government of Maharashtra (2019) Grievance Redressal Portal.

Human Development Unit, S. A. R. (2005) Access for People with Disabilities. People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes. The World Bank.

Jha, R., Udas-Mankikar, S. (2019) India’s Urban Challenges: Recommendations for the New Government (2019-2024). 32.

Los Angeles Metro Authority (n.d) Riders with Disabilities.

Maharashtra State Policy for Persons with Disabilities (2017), India.

Mead, N. V., Symons, H., Adzkia, A. (2017) Access denied: wheelchair metro maps versus everyone else's. The Guardian, 2017/09/21/t06:15:26.000z.

Metts, R. (2000). Disability Issues, Trends, and Recommendations for the World Bank.

Ministry of Railways, G. O. I. (2016) Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation Ltd.

Ministry of Urban Development (2016) Harmonized Guidelines and Space Standards for Barrier-Free Built Environment for Disabled and Elderly Persons. Government of India.

Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (2019) Mumbai Monorail Project.

Narayan, C. L., John, T. (2017) The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016: Does it address the needs of the persons with mental illness and their families. Indian journal of psychiatry, 59, pp. 17-20.

Oda, Y., Grisdale, J. (2016) Travelling with a Physical Disability in Japan. In: Life Where I’m From (ed.), [Youtube] https://youtu.be/xycecbwpIzE

Organizing Committee of The Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games (2017) Tokyo 2020 Accessibility Guidelines [online]. Available at: https://library.olympics.com/Default/doc/SYRACUSE/176242/accessibility-guidelines-tokyo-2020-the-tokyo-organising-committee-of-the-olympic-and-paralympic-gam?_lg=en-GB

Persons with Disabilities Act (1996), India.

Raghupathy, A., Shreyas, A. (2018) The Delhi Metro and Disability.

Sehgal, P. C., Surayya, T. (2011) Innovative Strategic Management: The Case of the Mumbai Suburban Railway System. Vikalpa, 36, pp. 61-71.

Shahaida, P. (2016) Karnataka's Sakala: No More Delays in Citizen Service Delivery. ASCI Journal of Management, 45, pp. 87-95.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (2016), India.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN CRPD) (2014) General Comment No. 2 - Article 9 : Accessibility. OHCHR: New York.

Vaidya, C. (2020) Role of Urban Planning in Achieving SDG - 11 in India Institute of Town Planners India Journal, 17, pp. 77-85.

World Bank Group (2018) World Bank Group Commitments on Disability-Inclusive Development [online] https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/socialsustainability/brief/world-bank-group-commitments-on-disability-inclusion-development