By Ripun Chhabra:
We, as individuals, are all different in many ways. But this diversity is what makes us stronger. Sadly, the rat-race and cut-throat competition that we face today, has made everyone so busy, that knowingly or unknowingly, a cluster of people have been left behind to struggle for their rights. What makes the existence of the disabled even more painful is their being in a country like Pakistan. The society in Pakistan finds it very hard to accept the group of people who need an extra hand, who require a bit of extra help, who are slightly different from the rest. This social stigma forces them to feel alienated from everyone else.
The basic requirement of accessibility is one of the major issues prevalent in Pakistan. About ninety percent of the buildings and shops do not have ramps for the physically challenged. The entry to the buildings and offices are stepped, making it impossible for them to climb and walk into. Also, no special arrangement has been provided for them as far as public transport is concerned. Another issue which is as alarming as the issue of accessibility is that of quality education. The disabled are not being provided with educational facilities which they otherwise deserve. Even after getting an authentic degree they are denied jobs, thus employment of the disabled is another concern in Pakistan. The Convention of the Rights of the Persons with Disability is clearly being violated there. Considering the treatment meted out to the old people of the country, the mindset of the people is very evidently sad.
Adding to their woes, the supporting equipments such as walking-sticks and wheelchairs are so costly that the common (and disabled) man cannot afford them. Here again, a few policies which were declared by the government to benefit the disabled, require a proof of disability in the form of a certificate. But getting this certificate is even tougher for a disabled person rather than living his/her life with it. The entire procedure of obtaining the certificate is quite complicated and is very expensive.
It is to be noted that the authorities are not responsible in this regard, thus making the condition even worse. Hence, one fundamental thing that is required here is to change the attitude of the society towards the persons with disability and treat them as equals. This can be achieved by taking the first step of including them in our daily lives and activities, by making them feel like they are a part of the society, by making the society free of barriers and based on human rights.