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Disability is a reality we all live with, time we gave it priority

January 15, 2018

Over the last few days, images of Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya on crutches have flooded some newspapers and websites. Once regarded as cricket's most dangerous batsman, the former Lankan captain is suffering from a severe knee injury and cannot walk without the support of crutches. The 48-year-old is set to undergo surgery on his knee in Melbourne.

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To see the Matara Marauder, as he was popularly called, in this shape is terrible. And a strong reminder that disability is not a curse, or something that happens to others, or is payback for some past sins, as many regard it in India. It can happen to any of us, at any time, and therefore, it is essential to have a system and approach that is accessible to ALL, without exception.

In the 20th century, mobility-related disabilities were at the top because of armed conflicts and wars. That has now come down. As per World Health Organisation figures, hearing loss will be the most prevalent disability after 2020. This is because the pace of ageing is growing around the world. In this scenario, we need to take a strong look at lifting the barriers in our environment and move away from the pity and charity approach that has largely coloured the way we look at the disabled in the country.

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Instead of lending a helping hand, we need to look at ways to enable them to live their lives independently. This means making roads, schools, colleges, government buildings, public transport, ATMs, etc etc accessible.

The great thing is that there is technology and innovation available today to make the change. But this cannot happen unless there is a shift in mindset, in attitude. One that acknowledges that the disabled have an equal right to everything, and reducing them to the position of an invisible minority does them great injustice.

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