“Disability is a matter of perception. If you can do just one thing well, you’re needed by someone.”
Discrimination occurs at many levels, and just like a person’s caste, creed and gender is not under their control, most of the times their bodily disabilities aren’t either. Such people constitute about 3 percent of our total population, and however small the number may sound, in a population this big, it’s definitely a significant value. India regards ‘equality’ as a vital element in governance, and each time we recite our National Pledge, or sing our Anthem, we are reminded of the same. More so, disabilities should not be an obstacle, in the real world for anybody. So, what are we doing for our physically challenged citizens?
“Equal opportunity for all” is an easier-said-than-done concept in India. The number of employers willing to hire a physically handicapped candidate is not very high. Prejudice always gets in the way of such citizens. However, India has always stepped forward in facilitating a strong educational base for these individuals. There is a reservation quota in almost all government institutions that guarantees a fair share of seats to them. Many schools and colleges make necessary arrangements to provide the required equipment that is needed for their mental and physical growth.
Apart from regular schools, there are special schools with professionally trained teachers, funded by the Ministry of Welfare, that look into initiating a strong foundation and a better future for these students. Scholarships at post-school level are also included in their education plan. In terms of securing a job, the government has recognized about 1100 work arenas that are suitable for the handicapped. Teaching, clerical work, self-employment and entrepreneurship, have proven to be a fully supportive and legible form of income. Unemployment allowance and disability pension is also provided to families who cannot support themselves due to any kind of impairment. Various government bodies like, All India Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, All India Institute of Rehabilitation and Artificial Limbs, National Institute for Physical and Orthotic Training, etc. are actively looking after the training and well being of the physically challenged group. The government is doing what is in its power, but are we? Instead of holding their disabilities against them, we should utilize their stronger abilities in favour of them, ourselves, and our economy.
After having volunteered at my college’s Association for the Blind, I learnt that we often ignore the capabilities of the physically challenged. They take their work much more seriously and are extremely punctual. They also accept their work environment with much more willingness, and work very hard to outdo themselves each time, as a challenge towards their personal growth.