The word handicap has been replaced with differently abled in the past few years, and there has been a huge shift in the perception of people in India. Individuals with physical disabilities have begun to enjoy equal opportunities, rather than considered as burdens. But this is only one part of the story, although a small segment of the society is considering differently abled individuals as equal members of the society, still a large part of the population has stereotypical notions against them. The main reason behind such archaic thoughts is the superstition that disability is caused by black magic or bad karma. NGOs and activists are working towards making a better world for the differently abled by counseling people with such thoughts, but it would still take many years to change the overall societal attitude.
Incredible achievement by differently abled persons around the world have shut the cynical minds time and again – Stephen Hawking, did groundbreaking work in physics and cosmology while suffering from motor neuron disease, Heller Keller was born deaf and blind but overcoming these shortcomings, she went onto becoming a celebrated author, Frida Kahlo was diagnosed with polio but she emerged as one of the most famous painters of Mexico. Talking about India, some of the differently abled achievers of India are Sudha Chandra(dancer), Ravindra Jain (music composer), Arunima Sinha (mountaineer), Girish Sharma (badminton player), and many more.
Despite such inspiring stories, differently abled people in India have to go through a lot of humiliation and embarrassment. Lack of access to public spaces is one of the main problems faced by them. Unique needs of individuals with disabilities are not met with adequate equipments in public places like hospitals, bus stations, malls, airports, and restaurants. Both technical and behavioral problems can be detected. There are no signs in Braille for the visually challenged, no ramps for wheelchair dependent persons, and no height adjustment equipments in hospitals. Moreover, uneven roads and bumpy roads make it all the more difficult for them to travel.
However, these conditions can be changed with proper planning and action. Here are some recommendations:
- Entrances to any public space must be wide enough to allow wheelchairs to pass through it.
- Clear instructions must be given to the visually impaired person at railway stations, bus stations and airports.
- All accessible ways to a place must be clearly lit.
- Parking spaces must have extra space for parking wheelchairs,
- Elevators must have auditory instructions too.
- Employees at public places must receive special training to deal with people having unique and different abilities.
It is disheartening to know that even though 70 million people in India are disabled, our treatment towards them is utterly shameful. It is due to this attitude that lot of disable people undermine their talents and consider themselves as burden rather than becoming agents of change.