Inclusive Society for- The Differently Abled
India has around 40 to 80 mn people with some form of disability.
At least one in 12 households has a member with disability
Illiteracy, unemployment and poverty among the disabled is high
Children with disabilities are 5 times more likely to be out of school than average.
Disability is not limited to any age group, religion, gender and even social status. It can happen to anyone, anytime and at any place. The nos are only expected to grow given our poor education system, higher rates of accidents amongst others.
Disability & Social Stigma
Being handicapped is the biggest handicap especially in a country like India where the people with disabilities are treated with great ostracism; lower self esteem and poorer infrastructure and living conditions. Irrespective of the fact whether one is born with disability or suffered in due course of life, they are treated with utmost pity and pseudo sympathies. People’ whole persona is challenged and their identity is reduced to the disability they are cursed with. Stigma spreads fast like cancerous disease and sometime becomes impossible to cure.
A lot of such people, kill themselves in fear of implacable atrocities, continued ostracism or live a life of extreme suppression under extreme conditions.
Disability could be in any form, starting from locomotion or orthopedic to visual/hearing impaired and much more. It is very debilitating to a person’s body, mind and soul too (I cried when I heard stories of many poor, handicapped women at Orissa & WB, who were illegally confined in houses tied with a chain, subjected to cruel rapes by multiple people).
The person is often seen as disgrace, a dirty patch to glamorous society and a burden to people around (God forbid, if you are women.). Families starts disassociating with them, or they become taboo in their social groups, siblings sometimes sneers at them, friends move away and employers shy away even if they write- we are equal opportunity providers in big bold letters in their glamorous corporate brochures.
I have often seen disabled people hanging low on confidence just because we as a society fail to associate with them. We do not want to marry our sons/daughters with them, we do not want to call them in our social functions, we treat them with extreme low level behavior as if they are some kind of an ugly disease, treating them way inferior and considering not worthy to live in this world. Why? May I ask? Just cause as perpetrators we fear how the society treat them or just cause we are blessed with good conditions that we do not realize the pain they suffer or is it that we do not understand cause we haven’t undergone the same? There’s a saying in Hindi that says- “ जाके पैर ना पड़ी बिवाई , वह क्या जाने पीर पराई". which roughly translates to- person who had not suffered the pain themselves would not know the other person’s suffering. But do we really need to turn the world blind to feel darkness?
I am sorry if I am sounding harsh in my writings but trust me, people with disabilities did not chose the disabilities they suffer. It occurs to them either by birth or accidents (often someone else’ irresponsible behavior than one’ own). However, disabilities affect the body but not the soul, not heart, not the person’ zeal for life. People with disabilities have the same expectation and appreciation of life like the rest of us. Instead of shunning, mocking, ostracizing them, we must be more inclusive and support them in all endeavors. By support, I did never mean “pity” but “empathy”, an equal and more sensitive behavior.
People with disabilities in India are more subjected to multiple deprivations
We must be sensitive to their needs, their special needs. Alas, in India we do not have infrastructures that may support them. Our roads, public utilities, public infrastructures like schools, railways, buses, stations etc are not very disable friendly, so does our policies of employment and development. There are quite some grants listed in govt sites but awareness for the same or availing the same is not as sufficient as it should be. Our educational institutes do not accept them heartily, our temples make God inaccessible for them (if they cannot remove shoes, junta doesn't allow them to enter temple premises. I have been through this). The institution of marriage boycotts them and parents think it’s best to pair a disable with another disable only. Above all, the treatment or the life support aids like good prosthesis etc is another distant dreams for them. In net, we are not an inclusive society, neither alive to their needs, nor respectful to their existence.
My 5 points charter as a possible solution to this problem
In my humble opinion, I suggest the following-
- Preventive care & Major improvement via early intervention- Like Nutritional interventions for mother & child, better road & workplace safety.
- Education for all- High end coordination with ministries of HRD, Social justice and empowerment, the general teacher traioning and rehabilitation needs to be improved and further more customized. Disabled kids and scholars should be encouraged to get educated. This also includes creating awareness about the aids available to disabled people and ensuring “what’s been created” should be “made available” too.
- Creating job opportunities.
- Better Infrastructure to enable & improve access (highly doable)- Designing & building ergonomically inclusive building, roads, footpaths etc.
- Research and Rehabilitation- Arming disabled with better equipments, right medication to lead an almost normal life without much difficulties. This can be further improved by lowering the import duties on artificial prosthesis and providing high end prosthesis at lower cost like USA
|Image by: www.numerounity.com|
And above all lots of sensitivity, care and empathy which cannot be forced but embedded early in our value system. I hope that this a fair ask. It is less of “ask” but more of a request towards building a better and healthier society. After all, our kid follows what we teach them, they learn from us, directly and indirectly.
Handicapped in body, but not in spirit
The sole purpose of writing this post is to use the I Diya’s, ISB and Indiblogger platform to share the voice and spread it across, so even if a little sense could be sowed in public minds, it’s worth the effort.
While a lot of disabled people live in pathetic conditions, some commits suicide, there are few of them who wants to fight back and sweat out demanding for an equal existence, bringing the best of their talents to create meaning for their lives but not without being scathed. These people become living embodiment of- Handicapped in body but not in spirit.
I salute the spirit of such people and same time salute the spirits of organizations that work towards such cause to abolish the abhorred word “charity” or “pity” from such peoples’ life, bringing them up in life, enabling them to earn livelihood, gain confidence in due process and live a decent & respectful life.
- Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Samiti- Widely known for its cost free Jaipur Foot. It provides low cost (almost free) artificial limbs, calipers, mobility aids, physiotherapy and others. Pioneered by Dr. Sethi and Dr. Mehta in 1975. This was also mentioned by CK Prahald in his book- The fortune at the bottom of the Pyramid”. Website
- Mouth & Foot painting Artist- A brilliant support organization which contact and work with people who are artiste and lost their hands or legs through accident and who can paint with the brish held in their mouth or between the toes. They also train disable people who wish to learn to paint and support themselves through the sale of their work. The art work includes- Art collections, T shirt, Bags, Calenders, greeting cards, gift tags, book marks, diary, coffee mug etc. If you think what the painting would be like? I have one word- Incredible and if I can use other- beautiful. I have personally taken their cards and book marks and they are lovely. If you have doubt check here- http://www.imfpa.co.in/products.htm. Website
- Mitra Jyothi- One of the biggest gift of the nature is to see. If we can see things, we can improvise a lot on our other disabilities. A visually impaired person loses the ability to see and trust me its very difficult to walk or even sit in dark. Mitra Jyothi is a Bangalore based registered charitable organization working towards the empowerment of people with blindness. They have a variety of training & support programs designed to assist people with visual disabilities. They support their educational needs, helps in finding suitable jobs and making them independent enough to take charge of their lives. Website
In the end, I would like to reiterate again that a person do not chose the disability by them. Disability is as dynamic as anything in life. It just happens and it can happen to anybody, anytime. Life is vulnerable and meant to be lived in high spirit. Handicap people should also be given equal importance in society and off course a special care attending their special needs. Idea is not to feed but teach a man how to fish. A little sensitivity, care and creation of opportunities are call of the times to nurture our society with more love, compassion for others, empowerment and inclusion