Not Disable Friendly!

Sep 13th, 2009 | By | Category: Articles

DisableLRecently, I met with an accident, which left my right foot fractured. The Orthopaedic Surgeon put my foot in the cast and, with that,  put brakes on my normal life. What I have, however, is a temporary disability, where I have to walk around with a crutch for the next few days. I have lost my freedom of movement, and it’s already beginning to drive me nuts.

This state of mine got me thinking. I have a disability which is temporary – for just about 6 weeks – and I am finding it very difficult to deal with it. What about people who live with a disability for their entire lives? In  the past few days I have found it very difficult to move around the city; I can’t get from one place to another without the help of a friend or family. All this has made me wonder why the public transports system, buildings and roads in India are not disable friendly?

As per the 2001 census, 21.9 million or 21,906,769 people are disabled in India. How many these 21.9 million people have a shot at normal life in India?

Let’s start with my experience at the doctor’s clinic. The clinic of the Orthopaedic Surgeon was not disable friendly. I had to use the stairs, with a broken foot. It was with immense difficulty that I accessed the clinic.

The story is the same all over India. For a disabled person, not only getting on board trains and buses is difficult, but even walking on the streets becomes an herculean task. Just a few days back, while driving, I saw an old man in a wheel chair trying to cross the road. The poor fellow got stuck in the traffic, and instead of being nice to him and helping him out, people were being impatient, angry and some even hurled a few abuses at him. Everyone was honking, but no one came forward to help him. In the end, the poor man managed on this own.

Recently, the Archaeological survey of India, with the help of guidelines from NGO Svayam, made Qutub Minar accessible to people with disabilities. Due to the efforts of ASI & NGO Svayam, people with disabilities can now visit the Qutub Minar. But there are so many more historical sights and places of importance in India which are still not easily accessible to anyone with a disability.

In India, people with disabilities are treated as second-class citizens; they have no proper access even to the basic facilities of life.  In sharp contrast are the western countries, where the roads are friendly for these special people. If they are in a wheel chair, they can easily cross the road, no assistance needed. In western countries, we also get to see blind people walking down the streets with the help of their guide dogs.How many blind people can have a normal life in India? How many people in a wheel chair can move around without any assistance?

The answers is anyone’s guess!

It is important to understand that the disabled people are just like the rest of the citizens of this country. As a citizen of this country, they have the right to lead a normal life, just like any of us. It requires awareness and determination on the part of all of us, not just the government and civic officials. We can do our part by raising our voice for our fellow citizens; next time we see a person in wheel chair crossing the road we should stop to  help him, and not yell at him for delaying us by a few minutes. The government and the people in authority also need to immediately wake up to this issue. They  need to take steps to build roads & footpaths that are easy to navigate. The trains, buses and even the foot-bridges need to be made disable friendly. There should be lifts to access the train stations and foot-bridges. The offices, public buildings and even private buildings should accommodate the needs of every citizen. Lastly, the government needs to put in place, and implement, rules and regulations to make this country friendly for every citizen.

I know my disability is temporary. In a month or two I will be back to my old normal life, a life where I don’t have to struggle to get around. Bu,t it has made me think about all the others who are not as fortunate as I am. Isn’t it time we all stood up for our fellow citizens and made this world a better place for them to live in?

Source: Census India



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Pallavi is a socially aware person, who believes in putting forth the real issues in front of everyone. Her international experience has made her an open-minded person, and it reflects in her thoughts. She is currently starting out as a student at SOAS, London. In the future, she wishes to be the instrument of change in the society. If you like her post you can follow her on Twitter or visit her Blog.

Pallavi Ade has written 1 articles on The MAG. View all articles by

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  1. It’s a simple case of lack of standards at the constitutional level and bad design. Those who ‘DESIGNED’ BEST buses, railways (bridges, entry points to railway stations) etc. dd not have a considerate mind.

  2. Pallavi has really hit the nail on the some offices especially MNCs are concentrating on disabled people and their requirements..but they are few and far between. Also, the fact is there’s a large portion of our disabled population who don’t have access to these swanky malls and won’t really be having the cushy blue collar job.

    The govt. should wake up and provide these services in public transport,hospitals accessible to the masses.

    india moves on trains but the new delhi rly station is one of the most unfriendly place to be in for 70 million of india’s population, the disabled i.e. we’ll be bringing you more such content that’ll show our apathy towards the disabled.

  4. I wish all of us could be more sympathetic who are not as fortunate as we are. Governments & Corporate both should have apathy towards people with disability. It doesn’t take a lot of efforts on the part of the people in authority to act on it. The will is what is lacking.

  5. The experience shared by the author reveals something each of us already know but choose to ‘pretend’ as though it would be taken care of by itself. The attitude manifested in the comments to some extent irk me for the simple reason that we tend to alwayz turnaround and blame the Govt or authorities or powers that be. My recommendation to all those who have read this article is to introspect and figure out ‘how best I as an individual could contribute towards improving the circumstances?’

    The reason I say that the comments irk me is that we find a simple way out of things. If one were to watch the daily news, a ship gets hijacked by pirates off the sea or some ethnic problem in a foreign country or some illegal immigrants stranded on an island in Europe ….. the first thing to do is attack the Govt. Did these people take permission prior to seeking employment abroad? Do any of them pay tax to the Indian Govt.?

    We need to accept the Indian mentality in its entirety. Till such time we are stricken by ‘bad times’ ourselves, we tend to look the other way. The social consciousness amongst us is lowest and more farcical. We need to firstly give up the hypocritical society that this country has evolved into basking on its proud heritage. We all need to change within and be transparent ….. social issues like the one highlighted in this article will automatically start changing for the good.

    We are an evolving nation. We have done very well for the fact that we’re just 62 years of independence. It is my firm belief, if we read the evolution processes of the countries refered to in the article, that we so very much admire today, it is evident that these countries went through the same social issues and have evolved into what they are today. We must have hope that India will do well and while it is important as responsible citizens to highlight these issues, I would reiterate the famous quote of Abraham Lincoln before we pen a comment, “Ask not what this country can do for you, ask what you can do for this country.”

    Jai Hind

  6. It doesn’t take too much to come up to terms with the writer’s anguish. Disability in India (especially in a city such as Mumbai) is a serious handicap considering the enormous pressure on public transportation.
    To the best of my knowledge, there are no laws in India ensuring equal opportunities for handicapped individuals with respect to use of infrastructure & facilities (buildings, roads, pavements, parking, etc).

    The US government considers this issue at par with (in seriousness – if not less than) racial, age and faith discrimination because of which ‘American Disability Act’ was passed into law during the early nineties. The construction industry (especially the commercial and facilities side) was arguably the most affected sector. The codes accentuated several design changes to the whole construction process. Some were as elementary as sloping ramps to safe levels, securing minimum number of wide handicap spaces in parking lots, providing support bars in handicap restrooms to more sophisticated ones such as upgrading fire alarm, sprinkler and security systems ensuring the highest safety standards for handicapped individuals. The construction process became much more complicated and also expensive with architects needing to be thorough with another set of codes to abide by. To date, the state fire marshal has the authority to fail the final inspection thereby deny ‘Certificate of Occupancy’ to the building owner/contractor if these codes are violated.

    With the introduction of SEZs in India, I am assuming the international standards are being adhered to in the private sector. This is great news for handicapped individuals working for those MNCs but beyond these SEZs, a major renaissance in attitude accompanied by positive action is required to eliminate this mass discrimination.

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