By Yash Ujjwal:
Suppose you are considered to be a punishment by the almighty, an expression of his anger, a manifestation of all the bad karmas of your past life. The first things you heard when you were born was your mother crying, your father ridiculing his fate and your relatives gossiping about the tragedy that you are. You are constantly stared at by the pitiful, merciful eyes of the self-proclaimed compassionate people around you. What you just experienced was a glimpse of the life that 650 million differently-abled people in the world and about 21 million in India are living, rather suffering today.
‘Disability’ (though now an archaic term) in pure literal sense means a physical or mental condition that limits a person’s movements, senses, or activities. But this is only half of the truth behind disability. More than their physical or mental condition, it is our society that plays the key role in disabling these people; it is us who really limit their movements, senses and activities. Our religious texts, our history books, all regard disability as a punishment inflicted by God or as a means to purify one’s soul for a better next life. A society dripping with these values and morals proves to be the biggest barrier for the disabled. By merely changing the name from disabled to differently abled won’t do any good until we commence to see them differently.
Add to this the government’s continued ignorance to the cause. If a person has any disability, the first thing that they will have to do, to avail any of the government benefits is to get made for themselves a “Disability Certificate” that needs to be approved by a number of our corrupt, lazy and inefficient government officials. And the apathy doesn’t end here, there are chances that the government may not consider the person disabled since a significant number of disabilities are not included in the Persons with Disability Act, 1995. The United Nations Enable programme is doing all it can to promote inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development, however, governments all over the world and especially India, have failed to implement its guidelines to a satisfactory extent.
There is a serious shortage of schools for the disabled preventing them access to education. A survey shows that only one percent of the disabled children in India go to school and this one percent also has meagre chances of getting employment except for the token amount of jobs that our government and our corporates as a part of their corporate social responsibility have to offer. Lack of education, lack of employment and lack of social respect is what disability in India offers you on a platter.
It is heart breaking to see how the largest minority community of the world is being ignored and overlooked. But the thing we need to remember is that for every ‘blind’ in this world, there are about 25 people who can see and for every ‘deaf’ out there, there are 20 who can hear, we can be their eyes and ears to this world if we could just be a little more sensitive and spend more time on working out solutions to improve their lives rather than pitying their fates or selfishly thanking our own fates. Until and unless we the so called “abled” citizens continue to live with our “disabled” minds, the situation can never get better.