Accessibility October 19, 2020
Ph.D student undergoes embarrassing ordeal due to lack of accessible toilet at IGNOU Kochi exam centre
Lack of accessible, clean toilets is a challenge women face across most of India. Imagine how much harder it is for girls and women with disabilities. Meera Menon, a Ph.D student in Kochi, underwent a traumatic and embarrassing ordeal at a place where she least expected. Read on to know more.
Imagine sitting for three hours soaked in your urine. That’s the ordeal Meera U Menon underwent while taking a three-hour-long exam at the regional centre of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in Kochi.
Meera has Spina Bifida, also known as split spine. She has difficulty in walking but is able to do so without the use of any assistive aids. One of the side effects of her condition is limited control over toilet motion.
These are challenges that the 31-year-old has overcome with great determination. Meera has her own YouTube channel MeeKa Unwinds and in 2009 was recognised with the UNICEF Young Achievers Award. An accomplished poet, she was awarded the KPCC Samskara Sahiti award for her compilation of Malayalam poems.
Meera is currently doing a Ph.D in the Representation of Disability in Malayalam Cinema at Amrita University, Kochi. On 16 October, she went to the designated exam centre for her paper.
Before my exam I wanted to use the toilet. The one on my floor had only an Indian style commode. Being a disabled person, it is very hard for me to use the same. I have less urine control but was forced to use the Indian toilet. This made my pants wet and I had to sit for the three-hour exam like that. – Meera U Menon, Ph.D student
Later, she was told by officials at the centre that while there was a so-called “handicapped Toilet”, it had been locked up for years!
In a strong letter to Suhas S, Collector, Ernakulam District, Dr. Mohammed Asheel, Executive Director Kerala Social Security Mission and the State Human Resources Department, Meera has thrown a series of hard-hitting questions that ought to shame the concerned authorities..
No reaction from authorities
“Even if I break open the toilet door, how can I use something not cleaned for years? Does it take a lot to provide a hygienic toilet facility? Aren’t we disabled allowed to have the basic needs of life? This is basic human rights violation”, asks Meera.
Her experience is one that has been shared countless times by disabled girls and women in numerous surveys. Even a dedicated campaign like Swachh Bharat Mission has failed to take their needs into account. It’s also well documented that inaccessible toilet and water facilities are major contributing factors for school dropouts among girls.
Meera, for one, is determined not to let go of this issue until there’s a redressal. “I have no intention of leaving this issue unresolved”, she says firmly.
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