How to change society’s perception towards disabilities – Guest Column by Vipin Janardhanan
Vipin Janardhanan, diagnosed with cerebral palsy, is a 39-year-old wheelchair user from Bengaluru. He works as an admin assistant with leading MNC General Electric. Vipin, who is also an aspiring writer, has always been vocal about issues faced by people with disabilities.
I remember going to watch a cricket match at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru with my friends and teachers while studying in school. Security personals and policemen posted at the gate got angry because they had to clear the barricade at the entrance to make way for our wheelchairs. One of them said “why do you all have to come here? Can’t you all watch it on Television”?.
Something similar happened when I visited the Sri Ranganatha Temple at Srirangapatana with my family. Priests wouldn’t allow me to go inside on my wheelchair and I was asked to be carried or to walk. We had to return back without getting a darshan. I haven’t been to a temple since I was 11 years old.
I cannot sit in the balcony or rear seats at cinema halls. It is always the front row as my wheelchair cannot be moved above. It is a struggle to get inside trains since I have to be carried by two people.
In a country where we boast about Chandrayan 1 and 2, Mangalyan and hundreds of super specialty hospitals, why are disabled people denied basic rights?
Need for disability awareness
To begin with, society must understand what disability means. That it is a condition which makes it difficult for a person to do certain activities or interact with the world around them. It can be cognitive, developmental, intellectual, mental, physical or sensory or a combination of multiple factors. That is why society must view a disabled individual as a differently abled individual which would help focus more on the abilities and get a chance to be a very valued citizen of the country.
We live in a society which is ignorant to the fact that physically challenged people need to co-exist with normal able-bodied citizens in this country. It is very disturbing to note that we still have a long way to cover in terms of understanding the constant focus on awareness.
I reckon the time is ripe for making rapid strides towards focus on awareness as we need to develop an inclusive society to show signs of changing attitudes towards the disability sector.
It would benefit all if society brings themselves in the position of the differently abled before asking questions on the worthiness of the individual to participate as a rightful contributor to the fortunes of our developing economy.
Awareness is the first step to bring about the change we strive for, hence the constant focus on awareness. Just like how normal bodied individual strive for making life easy, we the differently abled have a desire to make the change that could benefit all. It is said that awareness should always start from the confines of our homes so it becomes easy for us to propagate our beliefs on why we need to direct our energies towards the goal of changing perceptions of the society.
My question to the society is why discriminate between normal bodied person and differently abled person when all we need is equal rights and opportunities as prescribed by the legislations passed by government in 1995 and amended in 2016 to accommodate more disabilities who have also got a rightful place to avail benefits from the Central and the state Governments? Despite of passing the amended bill in 2016 studies from experiences of distinguished disability right activists show that we are still fighting for basic rights even today. I wonder what will give the society the understanding that it is time to support the differently abled to have equal access to all facilities as rightful citizens of the country.
Lack of mainstream educational opportunities for differently abled students in India had discouraged me to explore medical sciences as a career option. Many friends have successfully completed medical sciences to be known as doctors today. However due to lack of support from society and government they were denied opportunity to start their own private practice.
We must make the society understand being disabled is not a crime and pain. We must note that mothers who undergo pregnancy for 9 months should not be ridiculed if complications during pregnancy is the cause for the disability. Also, it is highly recommended that the couple go together for the checkup so that it becomes easier for doctors to explain the progress during the checkup.
All we are fighting for is our rightful place in the society based on the legislations passed by the governments. All this will happen when the society welcomes the term inclusion with an open mind towards changing perceptions and mental attitudes about disability and create accessible infrastructure that make life easier for the differently abled people and give them a feeling of normalcy.
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