PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY ARE NOT ALIENS, BUT THEY ARE AMONG US

Social inclusion of people with disability basically means ensuring that differently able individuals feel valued, their differences are accepted and respected, and their basic needs are met, so that they can lead a productive and healthy life. Human beings are social beings. Therefore, they are completely dependent upon social community and bonds such as forming relationships, going to school / getting vocational training, earning for livelihood contributing towards the community and culture, taking part in recreational activities etc.

selective focus photo of gray metal folding walker
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When differently abled people are marginalised from this system, it is very challenging for them to escape from poverty. If we go to the micro level, generally the forced social non-participation of people with disability is much more prominent in India, with inaccessible transportation facilities such as bus stops, railway stations etc. Other reason for social exclusion could be the perceptions of upholding family honour, which restricts independent choices and individuals often feel ashamed or discouraged by the family or the society, this hinders social interaction which is a major obstacle in the way of participation. All these factors lead to little or no education and high poverty and poor health amongst them.

  • What is the need of special schools, why can’t it be all inclusive?
  • Can the differently able cope with work pressures? And what work can they do?

The lives of those differently abled are largely marked by poverty and marginalisation from mainstream community.  A study by the World Bank (2007), noted that children with disability are five times more likely to be out of school than children belonging to scheduled castes or scheduled tribes (SC or ST) and other backward communities. Moreover, when children with disability do attend school they rarely progress beyond the primary level, leading ultimately to lower employment and higher risk of long-term poverty.

In inclusive education, the disabled children are taught in general classrooms as in mainstream schools alongside children of their age who do not suffer from disabilities. This system of education ensures that the disabled children are not segregated at any stage and helps them to develop a sense of self-worth, standing and belonging in society. It also enables sensitization of children who are not disabled and helps to form a disability friendly society which is impossible in the special education system setup.

The integration of differently abled children in the education field can be ensured by emphasising on integration, facilities for training teachers and enforcing a systematic education policy of the state in order to guarantee the disabled children their fundamental right to education.

According to me, government policies have been lethargic, indifferent; just lip service and half-baked policies with little or no honest effort. Although the government takes initiatives and schemes were brought into the picture, thanks to systemic procedural delays, and lack of proper coordination among the officials involved in the scheme, facilities are never utilised by the needed persons. For example according to the World Bank, illiteracy is 52% among disabled versus 35% in the general population. As with the overall population there is strong gender discrimination in educational attainment among persons with disability because women with a disability are the worst sufferers. It becomes a sort of two fold discrimination- both gender based and disability based. There is a social stigma and misconceptions attached to women with disability in India, female illiteracy being 64% against disabled male illiteracy of 43%.

It makes eminent sense to make available a new hitherto untapped labour force. With government of India launching schemes and initiatives like Sarva Shiksha Abhyan,which focuses on inclusive education, the number of educated persons with disability is gradually increasing in India. With technological innovations and assistive devices, this opens up a massive opportunity. Today it is essential to utilise this human resource base which can boost the economy as well as the confidence ofthe Nation and a large portion of its population at large.

Everyone with disability should be recognised as valuable contributing members of the community without any discrimination and all the children with disability must have the opportunity to go to school and the teachers should be trained to handle students facing disabilities. Moreover class rooms should include persons with disability as well, for, they also have a right to work and generate income and rise above social stigma and negative attitude attached to disability.

And it is not that I say this being unattached to the reality, let me share some of my experiences today perhaps for the first time in my life.

Discrimination on the grounds of disability has no benchmark. I once remember I was in 12th and a teacher told me you cannot watch properly you should read in open learning school and if at all you are reading how far you will go it’s a waste I smiled and replied mam if you can see the way I can then I can see the way you can then in that subject I was apparently the 2ndzone topper   I am sharing this not because people will feel sorry for me but they will get courage from it.

As an intern in the Odisha High Court, the very first day when I entered the court premises,   the learned advocates and general people all around stared at me as if I was an alien from some other other planet. It Struck me hard until
when in  the lunch hour one of the senior most advocates acme up to me to tell me that  in 35 years of his long litigation career he had never  seen a differently abled intern or even a lawyer entering the court. I was very proud for a moment at first, but then I felt terrible.  “Why is it so? “ I thought!
“There are no advocates or lawyers in Odisha who are differently abled?” I wondered in dismay. But unfortunately that was the bitter truth.
Why is it so? I ask again!

Why is it that when I am busy with work strangers can come up to me on a random basis to ask “Why you read holding the book to your nose? Can’t you read from a distance?”
“Do you have by birth, or by some accident?” they ask with curious pity, as if they have been my long lost relatives or closest friends.
It’s none of your business, I tell them.
“Who the hell are you to ask me,” I curse them under my breath, “ And why the hell I should answer?”
My life is per my wish, and I shall live it as I please as you live yours.
Although, Discrimination is an old friend when you belong to a community of people differently abled. And look how I stress upon “community” as if our existence is separate from the existence of all those who surround me.
When I was at school,  teachers use to taunt me. “You cannot see properly, how far you will be able to continue with your studies?”
I smiled at them and never reacted because i felt it was good that they  taunted me, reminding me on a daily basis what my goals in life are. (Fortunately, in our university, there is never any kind of discrimination against any of us differently abled)
I always thank Allah that he has given me more than what I have expected.
We hear we forget
We see we remember
We do we understand
Unless and until you don’t experience you can’t understand, and Allah has given me the opportunity to experience. Hence, I try to help others out, those who are in need of it.
I never thank those who stand by me or encourage me, they are friends and do not need it. I thank those who criticize me, and mock me.  I love them for they actually help me  do better in life, soar and explore newer heights. I tell them “The more you discourage me, the more you motivate me. Thank you. Please continue your noble work, for because of you we grow more resilient, all of us you mock.”
Over all, beyond the scope of theory, I am happy at whatever life gives me.  I cherish every moment of it, resetting newer challenges every day. Only  the way in which you look at your life changes.
I PROUDLY SAY I AM A DIFFERENTLY ABLED.

I help others reach resilience.
And how I walk or talk or look at things is really none of your business.

My point of writing this is not giving you a theory. Neither is it telling you how ‘I’ am and how ‘I’ live.

IT IS NOT ABOUT ME. IT’S ABOUT US. You, me and the “we” we form together.

We need to be a part of the change, that sees to it that policies and agreements stay on target, empower every individual to raise their own voices, to express views and raise awareness and advocate for their own rights and with right attitude and commitment with several voices together and we can end the cycle of social exclusion. It is a long winter road perhaps, but as Robert Frost once said, “And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

Shaista Parvin | 14ba039@nluo.ac.in

I am an undergraduate law student in my fifth year of B.A. LLB at National Law University Odisha. I have varied interest areas and a strong sense of empathy for everything around me. But to be precise am inclined towards advocating for Disability rights as I am disabled(pun intended) and I feel that’s my superpower. Apart from Human Rights laws, academics and politics, I love travelling. Exploring places, food, diversity and talking to new people is like my soul food.


2 thoughts on “PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY ARE NOT ALIENS, BUT THEY ARE AMONG US

  1. Shaista, you are travelling what Robert Frost called ‘The Road Not Taken’. And as the last line says, “And that has made all the difference”!

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,
    And having perhaps the better claim,
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
    Though as for that the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same,

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black.
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
    I doubted if I should ever come back.

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

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