Are these people a burden? Have they been cursed?

We fumble for a candle or our cell phones when we have a sudden power cut.We desperately search for a hold in moving trains and buses.We find it difficult to cross the road when there is heavy traffic.We would have fallen many times while learning to ride a Bicycle. We need both our hands sometimes to master small tasks like cutting, tearing, in fact eating!!! When we are not able to master the situations, don’t we feel “disabled” at that time?

I do not want to use the term “disabled” because people without a leg master themselves to move, with other alternatives available. A blind man uses the sense of touch to feel objects around him and sense presence. A deaf-and-mute person uses sign language to communicate. These people have learnt the hard ways of mastering things and basic needs.They utilise the minimum resources possible to get their work done and be self-reliable.It’s cost effective.So I call them as “persons with disabilities” or the physically / mentally challenged.

They do accept these challenges and work on them. It is really hard to walk with artificial aids given to them. Previously they were made of wood! Now people have become sensitive enough to the agony endured by the physically challenged, to customise the aids according to different needs and provide light weight aids made of plastic. So one can imagine how much of effort should a physically challenged person make just for the usage and maintenance of those aids. What about the “normal” people? Can we survive with just one leg or a hand one leg or hand less.

Now, who are the “disabled”? How can we call them “disabled” when we ourselves lack a lot of needed skills. So I would like to refer them as differently-abled people or “persons with disabilities” simply because they are talented enough to use the minimal resources to live their life.They are differently-abled for sure but the society has ceased the potential in them to be self-dependent by removing all the opportunities for them to grow, making them “disabled”/ physically/mentally handicapped. Like introducing a power-cut in our lives so that our eyes are made useless and removing their functionality forever.

Are our local buses, malls, theatres, colleges, schools, government buildings, or religious centres like temples, mosques, and churches equipped to support the differently-abled?They have the right to lead a normal fun life. They want to go to malls, theatres, schools, colleges too.

As a part of my internship in an organisation named Mobility India, I had to help a physically challenged girl, enrol in a school. Due to financial constraints, she had to drop-out and recently she felt the urge to study .I took her to five different schools, all government except one. They refused to admit her since they found her incapable of accessing the areas of the school building. Why is she being labelled “incapable”? The government has a law that all government schools are supposed to have an infrastructure that is accessible to physically-challenged people too. They equally have the rights to education as any other child.

I myself witnessed some government schools in Bangalore that were not equipped to include “Persons with Disabilities” (PWDs). They turned down an admission for a girl who had multiple disabilities (legs and right hand) since the infrastructure lacked in providing her with the essentials. There were no ramps. The toilets were not equipped. The school was also unable to supply a caretaker to cater to the girl’s needs.

One of the schools had a separate class for the mentally challenged. I saw them being physically abused by the teachers as their response time was slow. In another school, they did not even open the gate, to let us in and shooed us away when we tried to represent our issue. The teachers were very condescending. Finally, one private school was ready to admit her but her guardian was not able to afford the money in spite of the concessions already giving to the girl by the school.

My own college, Christ College has not got an infrastructure to support the differently-abled people though it is rated best for the same among other colleges in Bangalore! A physically challenged professor from Delhi had to attend a conference.She, along with the wheelchair, was dragged down the stairs by four people to get her to the ground floor! Will Christ college pay for the wheel chair’s damage? What is going to cost them so much to design a building which is supportive for the differently-abled?

The irony is that the society plays an active role to “impair” their productivity because of their perceived “impairment”. The society has put a curse on them, neglected them by perceiving and labelling them as a “burden”.

By making just a few changes in the infrastructure or the environment in general, we can educate, employ and empower many physically-challenged people to be self-dependent and make them productive for society.