International Day of Disabled Persons is observed on 3rd December
every year. The initiative underlining the theme of 'Decent work for persons with disabilities
' seeks to widen the grasp of disability issues, champion the rights of disabled people, and enable equal employment opportunities to help them live a life of dignity.
Talking of human rights issues of disabled people, a recent case of discrimination meted out to a disabled individual in India, has attracted much public ire.
Just a couple of months back, Rajiv Rajan, a 34 year old NGO employee ailing from Multiple sclerosis, was not allowed to board a Jetlite (erstwhile AIR Sahara) flight in the absence of an escort. Rajiv Rajan had to face public humiliation and wait for long hours after being disallowed to board the domestic flight.
Incidentally, Mr. Rajiv Rajan was a frequent flyer and had not witnessed any such incidents in the past. He was on his way to attend a meeting of the national trust which works for the cause of the disabled people. Though the airline tendered an apology to Rajiv Rajan, following a nation wide stir, the emotional scar of the event on the victim may not heal in a long time to come.
This is not an uncommon phenomenon. Most often, the disabled have to contend with many forms of physical and social barriers along with their disability which restricts their complete participation in society.
Types of Disabilities
- More than 500 million people in the world are disabled
- According to the Census, 21 million disabled people exist in India. In reality, the figures could be anywhere between 40-90 million.
- More than 20 per cent of the poorest in the world are disabled
- Nearly 90% of the disabled children in developing nations do not go to school
Disabilities could be Physical, Acquired or Developmental
Disabilities which are generally apparent at birth or in the immediate period following birth normally manifest as physical disabilities
For instance - Spina bifida, Cerebral Palsy are apparent during birth and are life long physical disabilities. This form of disability hampers their physical mobility.
can strike at any time irrespective of age, race or gender. Accidents, injuries, Alzheimer's disease, Multiple sclerosis are some of the examples of acquired disabilities. These could hamper their physical abilities or lay siege on their mental faculties.
are abnormalities manifesting at birth which hamper the development and growth of an individual. Mental retardation, Down's syndrome, visual impairment, hearing impairment could be some of the examples of developmental disabilities.
World Programme of Action
A recent World Bank report has revealed that disabled people are the most segregated in Indian society. Pity, bias and stigma against the disabled prevail, as revealed by a survey, where more than 50% of households felt that disability is a 'curse from God'.
The developing nations need a disabled-friendly environment. For instance, the transport systems were found to be deficient in this aspect. Among some of the evident mobility issues, the non availability of ramps in common public places posed a big hurdle to the independence of those confined to wheel chairs.
Further, the attitude of society towards the disabled needs a sea change. A condescending or patronizing attitude towards the handicapped proves to be a dampener rather than a morale booster. Awareness of the difficulties of the disabled is a significant step to help them cope with their handicap.
The report has called for a serious effort by the government, society and private sector, and the disabled people themselves, to improve their status and condition in society.
The World Programme of Action
targeting the disabled nurtures the following objectives:
• Measures to prevent disability
• Disabled Friendly natural surroundings
• Rehabilitation of the disabled
• Providing better job opportunities
• Promote equal participation of disabled persons in social life and development.
Significant Milestones Worldwide
The London Sports Forum has taken a major step in introducing what they term as 'coach- ability' a move to uplift disabled sports coaches. This program will initially train 150 disabled Londoners to be sports coaches also watering down the fallacy that disabled people cannot qualify to be sports trainers.
Beijing - Paralympics 2008
In 2008, China's capital Beijing will be privy to the much awaited Paralympic games. No stone is being left unturned to provide the best of service to Paralympic athletes. All the International travel expenses of the athletes are sponsored along with accommodation facilities.
This is a positive move to help Paralympics athletes to integrate in the sports world and feel one amongst all.
Indian Corporates Recognize the Differently-abled
Many organizations do not encourage 'equal opportunities' for the disabled, fearing hidden costs. This is a complete fallacy.
Indian Corporates especially the BPO sectors have led the way. They have begun to dip into the vast talent pool of disabled people for filling in job vacancies. Infact, the BPO arm of Infosys, employed a large number of disabled people in 2005. Now, they have more than 150 disabled people working for them.
Sky is the Limit
Being disabled is by no means useless. Most of them are endowed with immense skill and talent. With proper education, only the sky can be their limit.
It is only when societal attitudes throw a wet blanket on their initiatives, that the disabled build a wall around themselves. To help them integrate into society, it is imperative to enhance the employment opportunities for the disabled people.
All disabled children must have access to education. Disabled youth must have the same choices for higher education as their normal peers.
By averting malnutrition, improving sanitation, enhancing prenatal and postnatal care, checking environmental pollution and improving safety, disability can be prevented to a great extent. Additionally, by increasing the scope of immunization programmes for children and expanding their availability, many disability issues can be nipped in the bud.
The onus of initiating such measures rests ultimately with the Government though society, individuals and organizations must chip in to realize parity in the manner of living and opportunities for the disabled.