Some Dignity for our Specially Abled!! Is it too much to ask for

It was a pleasant Monday morning; slight chill had engulfed the air before the onset of winters. I was in a rush to board the metro after finishing off my shift duty on Sunday night. Metro stations on Monday mornings are overcrowded, bustling with people eager to catch the next available train. There are more forlorn faces on view after the weekend than the cheerful ones. For me situation is quite the opposite as my week starts on Sunday night and Monday mornings are relatively stress free. The best part of going home this time is to see others go thru the grind whereas you can take it easy.

After staying awake the whole night my only target was to hit the bed as soon as possible. Cutting across scores of people on a Monday morning, I was about to clamber on to the escalator when somebody tapped on my shoulder, I was too busy to look behind my back and waste my time as it meant taking seconds off from my precious sleep, I only heard the voice which was one of the usual voices one often hears from people at the metro station. Bhaisahab!!

Which way is the platform from which train to Peeragarhi departs”.

Go to platform No. 2″

Without paying any heed to who was behind me, I replied with slight annoyance clearly visible in my voice.

As I was about to step on to the escalator I just had a glimpse of the man and realized that he was visually impaired and was walking with a white cane which is primarily used by people who are blind or visually impaired. Overcome with guilt over my callous attitude I stepped back from the escalator to let others pass by. Our mind works in different ways Isn’t it? My annoyance turned into compassion and was ready to extend help to the person who tapped on my shoulder. He was still finding his way thru the maze and had barely moved a step or two from where I left him whereas others had gone past him oblivious of his struggles.

I went up to him, held his hand and we started climbing up the stairs which took us to platform. I decided to strike a conversation with him as I was repenting my indifferent deportment towards him earlier and the only way I could assuage myself was to help him in whatever way I possibly could. This man was working with a private auto ancillary company as an accountant in Mangolpuri industrial area and he boarded this metro every day to go to work and today was just another day for him. His voice suggested he was used to this hustle and bustle of a metro station. Overcome by inquisitiveness I further inquired how he manages to travel the entire distance without any hassles. There was a lilt in his voice, a verve, a childlike enthusiasm probably he wanted to share his story with somebody. It was an eye opener for me as till then I thought especially abled people only looked for sympathizes but here was this man who did not want any sympathy, he was leading a great live without seeing this world. He was well aware of which compartment to get in and which stairs to take, which station to get out at. Metro probably is the only public mode of transport in our country which has some semblance of infrastructure which is disqbled friendly.

We have over 2.7 crores physically and mentally challenged people in our country and some of them are really poor and need financial support to sustain their day to day lives. But here in India we do not have a culture of respecting our specially able people. There is no reserved parking for them even in in our top malls, hotels and places of importance in our country. Most of our airports and railways stations lack basic facilities to facilitate easy movement of such people. Consider the plight of able bodied who have a harrowing time boarding trains, one can well imagine the horrendous experiences that physically challenged people have to go thru in a train journey shuttling from one platform to another. I have a friend who is specially abled and many a times during our outings in CP, we have to seek help of others to carry him to the table. So much for disabled friendly huh!!

Our public places and toilets are poorly lit and inaccessible to people on wheel chairs, finding an accessible toilet in our country is like finding a needle in a haystack.

I talked to one of my friends on wheel chair. She drinks very less water as drinking more water means frequent visits to toilets which are at most times inaccessible to most of the disabled friendly people. This makes the situation even worse as not drinking enough water can have some serious ramifications like increased chances of developing a stone and other gastronomical diseases. Some people are forced to wear diapers to avoid the hassle of going to wash rooms but still changing off these diapers is a herculean task which needs to be taken care off.

( Not actual Picture, taken from google)

When you sit for more than eight hours each day, your blood flows less efficiently, and that situation can deprive your cells of nutrients and oxygen. Compounding the problem, the muscles can’t burn fat as quickly. Thus, fatty acids will accumulate throughout the body, and they can interfere with the functioning of the heart. Inactive muscles don’t react to insulin effectively either, which leads the body to secrete excessive quantities of that hormone. As a result, the likelihood of diabetes increases. A surfeit of sitting can also cause the abdominal muscles to atrophy. A person’s abs are fully engaged when he or she stands, but they’re lax when he or she sits. Therefore, excess sitting often causes poor posture, a condition that can lead to back pain, shoulder soreness, and neck tension.

Problem is even more acute for women with disabilities. This country is unsafe for able bodied women and misery is compounded manifold for women with disability and on can well imagine the predicament of a woman who goes out on the street to make a living. They risk of being raped, groped or kidnapped by some lunatics on the streets. A visually impaired lady won’t even identify the perpetrators of such heinous crimes against her. For some time, I taught in a school for visually impaired children located in Raghuvir Nagar near Rajouri garden and I was astounded by the enthusiasm of the kids there. Life was not fair to those children and school was run by a complete blind person and lot of people brought in food and snacks during those days but there were very few people who were willing to spend their time in developing those kids.

In our culture feeding poor is one way to salvation and that is why people do not hesitate to donate food but little empathy and some amount of time can go a long way in improving the overall standards for disabled.

Honorable Prime Minister exhorted people of our country to be more sympathetic and empathetic to concerns of our specially able friends but the way our attitude is it seems his appeals and exhortations has fallen on deaf ears . May be many of us are not aware that in Paralympics our para athletes did exceedingly well and came back with a much bigger medal haul vis-a-vis our olympians.

Why our regulatory authorities do not take cognizance of the fact whether the buildings they are approving are disabled friendly while granting approvals?

How many organizations operating in this country have toilets which are disabled friendly? Even if they have, are they kept clean and reserved only for people with special needs

Our Fortune 500 companies oil companies shout from the roof top that they provide toilet facilities to customers. How many of those wash rooms are disabled friendly? Why can’t we have disabled friendly washrooms at our petrol pumps? As such it has been mandated in the Companies act 2013 that all companies have to spend 2% of their profits on CSR. Why can’t some percentage be reserved for taking initiatives to make our infrastructural facilities which are disabled friendly.

How do these malls and big buildings get permission to operate without even providing reserved parking spaces?

There are whole host of efforts which have gone into Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to ensure that people can relive themselves in a dignified manner but all those efforts have gone down the drain if we talk about our special abled friends who are deprived of this dignity most of the times. Is it too much to ask for??

We talk about smart cities but have we been able to provide a smart living to our specially abled?

For all these changes to take place it is imperative that our attitude as a nation and as a society changes towards disabled people . However, the way things stand today there seems to be very little hope for our special people.

Sorry friends we have failed you.

Photographs taken from Google and views expressed are personal.

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23 Comments

  1. Your article is a very interesting theme. I agree that we don’t treat disabled people as we should. But I have also noticed how disabled people can be happy. Even happier than me sometimes.

    Nearby, there is a family with a disabled child in a wheelchair who has a smile like all the time. And when I meet them, I forget all my problems and I’m thankful for what I have. Because life can change everything in a minute.

  2. Your article is a very interesting theme. I agree that we don’t treat disabled people as we should. But I have also noticed how disabled people can be happy. Even happier than me sometimes.

    Nearby, there is a family with a disabled child in a wheelchair who has a smile like all the time. And when I meet them, I forget all my problems and I’m thankful for what I have. Because life can change everything in a minute.

    1. You have got the essence. We must respect our disabled friends that’s the whole idea. In India our facilities are not disabled friendly yet they are the ones who are much happier and thankful.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. Nicely written article. I agree we treat our differently abled very shabbily. I have seen toilets meant for differently abled being used as store rooms in many malls. Most of the important public places, means of transport are not friendly to disabled.

    1. Thanks Vandana for your thoughts. They need some respect and empathy. I hope we become more sensitive towards them. Please follow the blog if you want to read on.

  4. Nice article. You have explained problems faced by differently abled people so perfectly. We should all respect them and help them as they are also gods creation as we are.

  5. In the USA there are laws which require public accessibility for people with disabilities – handicap parking spaces, ramps on building and sidewalks, wide doorways to accommodate wheel chairs, handicap bathrooms, braille signage, equal access to employment and education are some examples. These laws however were not born out of anyone’s compassion for the disabled. It has taken many decades of people with disabilities advocating for such. If people (with or without disabilities) are content I am afraid they will never be given better.

    1. That’s why US is the most disabled friendly country. I really hope we learn something from the great nation of yours. Thanks for providing your feedback if you can share some more info on how we can also implement such laws in India it will be great.

  6. Will you believe me if I said that once I heard a women travelling in metro, cursing a person in wheelchair. She blamed that guy for his bad luck and what happened to him. Wow. Now that’s a place we live in.
    There are still people like this, alive and walking on earth😡

  7. We have laws in place to protect people wth disabilities in the UK and in Europe. How terrible it must be not to be able to use the toilet when you need it? A basic human right. Interesting post…thank you for sharing your thoughts.
    By the way my friend, take care taking images from Google. They may be protected by owner rights. I get my images from http://www.unsplash.com. These are free images that bloggers can use.

    1. I think in UK things are better for disabled. I will surely visit UK sometime. Watching a test match at Lords cricket ground is on my wish list. Just that I need to take some time out of my schedule.

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts .You wrote it do well. I agree with you. Highly appreciated. It’s necessary to raise this problem in front of all . Good work👏

  9. I heard in UK there are parking places reserved for them and there are specifically designed toilets as well.

    1. In India disabled people face so much difficulty day in and day out. UK is heaven for disabled. You treat your disabled really well.

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