“You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.” – Oscar Pistorius
I will begin with a positive note. It is widely believed that most of the disabled persons have something extraordinary in them. Then why not make the best use of it in the overall interest of this cluster as well as the nation. Never forget, no human can match the speed of a cheetah, we can’t fly like birds, and none of us has the ability to see in the dark; comparisons with others’ ability is what that defines disability. Nothing in this world has the capability to stop us from achieving success, given that we exploit every of the available means and run for our goal until the end. I wish I could be in Alaska at the time of snowfall, I wish I was present on the day of our freedom from British rule and I wish I could stop all the wrongs, but limitations cannot be crossed; isn’t it true that we are all disabled to satisfy our wishes at times. Life is gorgeous the way it is, we ought to give the best, every time. Why I would use the term ‘differently abled’ many a time as a replacement to ‘disabled’ in this writing hails from the incident when I used to travel for work from my home in Ghaziabad to New Delhi in a local train, where I recurrently observed a visibly impaired man selling peanuts; process involved weighing, counting different currency notes and then returning the balance to buyers; something that always boosted my spirit and motivated me to deliver the best even in unfavorable and severely harsh conditions.
The hike in the country’s disabled population was 22.4 percent between 2001 and 2011, rendering their total count as 27 million as per the census of India, 2011; on the other hand, the growth rate was 17.6 percent in terms of entire population increase between the same period; hence the authorities shall sense the alarm. If we study the census deeply, we would see that although rural areas have more of disabled as compared to urban parts, the growth rate is more in urban areas. Most of the people in this cluster are the ones with movement disability, owing to upsurge in the number of road and industrial accidents in 2001-11. Isn’t the area of improvement we need to work upon clear then; wellbeing at roads and during industrial work is what is to be achieved by both technological advancement as well as much severe punitive actions in cases of mishaps. While more than 20 percent of disabled are exchanging blows with movement disability, hearing impaired and visually impaired account for 18.9 and 18.8 percent respectively, mainly due to growing lifestyle disorders; air, water and noise pollution being one of the most conspicuous factors. Prevention is better than cure and government schemes, isn’t it? Then why not work dedicatedly in the areas of pre-pregnancy planning, prenatal care, obstetrical care, and immunization? Read this- Visual impairment is prevented by the use of medication to protect the eyes of the neonate from infections which may be picked up on the way through the birth canal (World Health Organization, 1992), and careful monitoring of newborn babies and rapid treatment of anoxia can prevent mental disabilities.
What purpose would surging GDP growth rate or declining inflation serve for a person with few lacking abilities if he/ she isn’t able to find dignified work prospects, education opportunities and easy access to public places? United Nations’ report says that they are the world’s largest minority; now would the Indian politicians, at least some of them, be more focused? Burdened with poverty, many physically and mentally disabled get excluded from the mainstream, rarely benefiting from rehabilitation, counselling, education and such other measures undertaken by the government or non-government organizations. A simple fact that we need to pay heed to while addressing this concern is that disabled are not a homogenous group, different kind of issues crave for specific requirements; each problem being distinct from the other. For say, those with learning disabilities face the added disadvantage of even being identified; school and university curriculum rarely have any bit for education of students with exceptional needs. While studies reveals that women with disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual and physical abuse, women empowerment programmes do not include issues of the disabled ones. Let me also count here some of the schemes run by the government viz. the ‘Nirmaya’, a health insurance scheme, and the ‘Gharaunda’, a lifelong shelter and care scheme, but how many disabled are aware of these schemes and how much subsidy does in this real and wicked world flow to the real benefit-seekers, is a vital question.
Gwalior district in the state of Madhya Pradesh has been able to make more than 95 percent of public places accessible for differently abled residents. Government schools and public spaces like railway stations, bus stops and even ATMs are now within reach for people who otherwise had all those barriers in the road to success. That’s real achievement for any authority/ administrator. Social and economic development of this cluster, however, has remained far than achieved in India. Nobel Laureate, Sh. Amartya Sen, counts this sadness in his words ‘Disabled people are not only the most deprived human beings in the developing world, they are also the most neglected’. Of no good would be a developed India if the country isn’t capable to make the cluster live at par with other citizens and relish all the perks accessible to the general public. That isn’t possible, some would say. How would you make the deaf listen to music? There are limits, I agree, beyond which we all become helpless, that is why the social paybacks available in countries like U.S. and U.K. aren’t available to Indians, but at least these are prospective targets for the Indian government to achieve, and in the same context are the goals that lead us to a welfare state for differently abled. If not music, at least a career for the deaf, of course this isn’t that unmanageable to attain.
We all know that disabled people face a range of social and economic problems and any improvement in the present conditions is a harder than said task. But this is why we all elect our law and policy makers. Proper rehabilitation services, easy access to primary healthcare, and above all a supportive educational structure that should embrace newer techniques, restructured curriculum, methods of teaching and infrastructure to make accessibility for disabled stress-free are some pressing needs. Why not aptly team up with the corporate sector to ensure that adults, though disabled, are effectively placed at levels where the part of disability would not hinder performance and delivery? The ‘Make in India’ program isn’t all about inflow of funds, but is about its application and generation of employment prospects for the youth. Why not place movement disabled, however, persons of acumen at such positions that the Indian industry can tap the skills of this cluster? Another key goal is to increase public awareness and understanding the notion of disability. What about promoting CSR activities by businesses in this domain and also encouraging research on disability? Isn’t it true that accessibility is the very basic requisite for realizing and relishing of any right, the rights as enshrined in our constitution? Then shouldn’t the administrators look for ways to make all the perks that are being enjoyed by every common man within reach to the disabled?
‘Disability is preventable’ and this has to be considered sooner than later. Malnutrition, poverty, lack of safe drinking water and vitamins, road and industrial accidents, use of drugs are all to be minimized by concentrated labors. What about the goal of making the number of disabled lesser or at least curtailing any growth owing to preventable factors in the coming ten years and also making every possible public place of India accessible to people who are differently abled? I am sure that the present rulers would take due note of this issue, helping disabled discover their privileges.
“If you have a disability and behave ordinarily, people take you extraordinarily.” – Devender Pal Singh, ex-army man, and dubbed as India’s Blade Runner for overcoming the challenges of a lost limb and being a part of numerous half marathons since 2009.