Today, Dec 3, is observed as the International Day of Disabled Persons. The Day was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly.
India signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and as part of compliance in this regard, enacted THE RIGHTS OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES ACT, 2016. Most importantly, the Act lays down Rights and Entitlements, which include:
Ensuring that the persons with disabilities enjoy the right to equality, life with dignity and respect for his or her integrity equally with others; that the capacity of persons with disabilities are utilized properly, by providing appropriate environment; that no person with disability shall be discriminated on the ground of disability; that no person is deprived of his or her personal liberty only on the ground of disability.
The Act is comprehensive in covering all aspects—from Rights to Education to Employment to Health.
In my on-ground experience though, the last-mile is still challenging. Many people with disabilities and their care-givers are not aware of their rights and entitlements. Even the first step of disability assessment and registration—which entiltes PWDs for a host of entitlements like pensions, bus and train passes etc.—is not easy, and involves ‘running’ from one office to another. Access to government and private buildings including educational and healthcare instiutions, registrar offices, post offices, banks, ATMs, cannot be taken for granted.
A long, long way to go. But to end on a note of hope, here is a story of how a small intervention can make a difference in one life.
Sajan (name changed) is a vibrant young man who lives in Delhi with his parents and a younger brother. He was born with orthopedic impairment. His parents always encouraged his ambitions. They bought him a manual tricycle to enable him to attend school.
Through hard work and perseverance, he was able to complete his secondary education. He dreamt of completing his graduation but was unable to find a suitable college nearby. His tricycle had also worn out and he was finding it harder to pedal to distant places. As a result, he chose to pursue his higher education through a distance learning programme.
Simultaneously, he also began preparing for competitive exams in order to get a government job, but found the long commute to the coaching centre tiring.
It was during this time, that his parents learnt of GMR Varalakshmi Foundation which was working in their area with differently-abled.
After a thorough assessment, staff members recognized that his trouble stemmed from using the old tricycle. The team organized an electric tricycle to him. This model of tricycle is much easier to ride, has an easy, low entry and exit, and very good back support.
Today, he rides 7 kms every day to a coaching centre of repute and is earnestly preparing for competitive exams. He is extremely happy that he can travel long distances without any discomfort. He says, “The electric tricycle has provided wings to my dreams”.