Kerala disability rights activist Dr FM Lazer is working to create inclusive spaces in society
A renowned disability rights activist from Kerala, Dr FM Lazer, who has a 60% disability hopes to see an inclusive society. He has been actively involved in the disability space for decades and has also been working to create equality in society where disabled people are discriminated.
Dr FM Lazer Fernandez, a 55-year-old disability rights activist from Kerala is a renowned name in the state. Lazer, who has a disability in his left leg, uses a walking stick as an assistive device. Someone with a 60 percent disability, Lazer knows the plight faced by India’s disabled community. As he puts it, “disabled people are not just charity receivers”. Over the past many decades, Lazer has been fighting for inclusion and equality of people with disabilities in all spheres of society. Lazer talks to Newz Hook about his journey.
Life in Kerala’s coastal region
Lazer was born and raised in Pallithura, a coastal area in Trivandrum district, close to the state capital. Unfortunately, all the three babies that his mother had before him passed away soon after birth. So his mother prayed to Jesus for a baby, and it did not matter whether he had a disability or not. “I remember my mother saying that is the reason why I had a disability on my left leg. She wanted a baby so badly. So limitations did not matter to her. The story still rings inside my ears”, says Lazer.
Born and raised in Pallithura, which is also a popular fishing hub, Lazer used to engage in small fishing works. This was to support his family that was economically backward. “I know how it is to starve for days. I have experienced it as a child. So I always wanted to help my mother in whatever little ways I could”, says Lazer who did odd jobs from very early in life.
Though Lazer was not keen to attend school, his mother was determined to educate him. That is how he completed school, did an MBA and also B.Ed. “It is through education that my thoughts changed. That is when I also realized how people with disabilities are being sidelined and marginalized in society”, says Lazer.
Lazer is a doctor of Social Work, a doctorate that he received from International Peace University in Germany. He is also an international Peace Ambassador from a Nepal government recognized institution.
A dedicated social worker
Lazer worked as government employed Clarke. But from a very long time, working for disabled people was a cause close to his heart. “Persons with disabilities are not a tag associated with charity. We must get equal rights and privileges just like the others. That is why I decided to do my bit to uplift the community”, says Lazer.
He has been working closely with people with disabilities, helped in providing them with assistive devices, education and jobs. In order to take his work to the next level, Lazer started Thisability Mission Kerala in which he is a chairman now.
Lazer says that people with disabilities deserve equal rights and privileges, but sometimes it is not the government, but political parties and their leaders who are the hindrance for real inclusion to happen, not just in politics, but many other spheres too. “The RPWD Act, 2016 talks about reservations for people with disabilities in elections. Why are we denied even that?”, he asks.
A cause close to the heart
Kerala has numerous programs for disabled people. The state has even won a national recognition for their schemes and policies for the community. But Lazer says there is a long way to go. “I can say that the state has comparatively better inclusive policies for people with disabilities. But that is not enough at all. Kerala is a state where attention is much needed. The government needs to address it”, he says.
Lazer recalls a paper presentation on disabled people that he had attended in Thailand a few years back. After the speech, he received a lot of applause for whatever he had shared on stage. “It was a proud moment for me”, he recalls.
“The reservation strategy must be implemented from panchayat to parliament level. Religious organizations will only try to demotivate people with disabilities. So the government and law must take this up. We deserve equal rights and it should not merely be on paper. We deserve social dignity”, signs off Lazer.
Actively involved in social work, Lazar says that all his activities are now through online platforms due to the pandemic and lockdown. Supporting him throughout is his wife Treesa and two kids Mrudula and Thejus.
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