Madras 384 | A Letter to Chennai: A place where access is truly felt, not just merely seen

In a heartfelt message to the city, Azeesh Rahman, a graduate with visual impairment, expresses how the city has warmly embraced him.

ByAzeesh Rahman

Published Aug 24, 2023 | 1:33 PMUpdated Aug 25, 2023 | 3:21 PM

Madras 384 | A Letter to Chennai: A place where access is truly felt, not just merely seen

Dear Chennai,

As the city of Madras celebrates 384 years and blossoms into the vibrant Chennai we know today, I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts and experiences with you.

I’m Azeesh Rahman, a proud IIT Madras graduate, armed with a degree in Humanities and Development Studies. These days, I find myself thriving in the Sales Department at Able Aura, contributing to the dynamic growth of the business.

Chennai, you’ve woven yourself into the fabric of my heart, especially through the lens of my unique perspective as someone with visual impairment. You are not just a city; you’re a living canvas where connections flourish.

Azeesh has a degree in Humanities and Development Studies.

Azeesh has a degree in Humanities and Development Studies. (Supplied)

From the energetic pulse of lively bars to the cosy embrace of pubs, and the serenity of parks that beckon conversations, you’ve shown me that strangers here don’t stay strangers for long. Conversations bloom as naturally as the flowers in a garden and it’s this warm spirit that sets you apart.

You are a treasure trove of experiences, offering the most delectable food, incredible company, and a fusion of cultures that can take anyone’s breath away.

Attitude matters in access

Now, let’s dive into the realm of accessibility.

To me, you’re like a playground — a place where I can experiment with what works best for me as a visually impaired individual.

Not every corner boasts a flawless setup, but what truly stands out is the willingness of your people to step in without hesitation.

Your residents understand the power of a helping hand and they offer it with open hearts. Sure, your infrastructure might have its flaws, but the attitude of your people shines brighter than the Sun.

Having roamed around cities like Dubai, Bangkok, and Malaysia, I’ve seen the contrast — places where pathways are perfect, yet assistance is rare due to language and cultural barriers.

Tactile paving on roads.

Tactile paving on roads. (iStock)

You, Chennai, are an exception. You open your arms wide, ready to help and eager to step beyond comfort zones.

This fills me with hope that by aligning accessible infrastructure, we can create a city that sets an unmatched standard for inclusivity.

As someone with visual impairments, my hopes for you, Chennai, lie in raising awareness about accessibility.

In cities abroad, I can confidently navigate with my trusty cane and, like magic, paths clear up. This is thanks to a combination of gridlines, official awareness, and well-coordinated traffic assistance.

My wish is to see this magic happen here. When bus conductors, government employees, and the everyday heroes on your streets know how to assist individuals like me, you transform into a haven of independence.

Technology as an ally

But let’s not stop there — technology can be our ally too. Those audio announcements and gridlines in metro and train stations? Let’s spread that brilliance to bus stops and every corner of your public spaces.

It’s heartening to see that Chennai has dedicated companies and NGOs working tirelessly for people with disabilities, and the power of collaboration is undeniable.

Increasing awareness about accessibility is the dream.

Increasing awareness about accessibility is the dream. (iStock)

Just imagine the potential if all these forces unite under a common goal, fueled by government support!

The possibilities for your development are boundless, Chennai.

You are not just a spot on the map; you’re a relationship, a city that offers me opportunities and supports me. In return, I proudly stand by you, extending opportunities to those with disabilities, just as I’ve always believed in.

As we celebrate Madras Week, let’s amplify the shared spirit that makes you who you are. Let’s continue making Chennai a haven of warmth and inclusivity, a place where everyone feels they truly belong.

With eager anticipation for even more accessible days ahead,

Azeesh Rahman,
Lover of Chennai, Advocate for inclusion

(The writer is an IIT Madras graduate, who works at Able Aura. To be a part of Azeesh’s journey, visit Instagram @MeetforThought)

(‘Madras 384’ is a curated compilation of articles that joyfully celebrate the captivating journey of Chennai, also known as Madras, while inspiring meaningful discussions.)

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