By Shailza Sharma:
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines disability as “Disabilities is an umbrella term, covering impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. Impairment is a problem in body function or structure; an activity limitation is a difficulty encountered by an individual in executing a task or action; while a participation restriction is a problem experienced by an individual in involvement in life situations. Thus disability is a complex phenomenon, reflecting an interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society in which he or she lives”. Thus, by this definition a disabled person will always be in need of special infrastructure that will help him overcome these disabilities.
The infrastructure in India in most places is not at all disabled-friendly. The devices that help remove or reduce disability are called Assistive Technology. Such devices have not been installed and there is no accessibility adaption for the disabled. The discipline of sociology studies the human social activities with the goal of working towards social welfare. Thus, looking at this situation from a sociological perspective, we can clearly see that the disabled individuals are not at theÂ benefiting endÂ from this pattern in the society and therefore there is no real progress or social welfare.
The Disability Movement in India has been aimed at the segregation and discrimination experienced by the disabled or the ‘socially dead’ (term coined by Vic Finkelstein in his article). The basic aim of the life of a disabled is to just survive and they barely can do so with the lack of education, awareness, infrastructure and employment. Even if they are provided with basic employment with schemes such as reservation for the disabled in government jobs, they cannot adjust to the social norms that have been set according to and for the ‘normal people’.
As Vic Finkelstein points out in his article that it is the society which is disabling the people and so the society needs to change, not the disabled people. This contention makes a very strong point which is socially relevant as it is very important to see the disabled people as a part of the society and not exclude them on the basis of their physical or mental shortcomings. This shows that we are the ones who are responsible to behave normally with the disabled people and not the other way around.
Thus, we as a society should do more and not just restrain ourselves to the upliftment of the disabled but also explore the nature of disability i.e. what it is all about, so that the inherent problem of viewing the disabled persons as a burden on the society can be removed. The first step towards doing this is through making them more comfortable in their lives by making a disabled-friendly environment.