First Person: India Needs to Become Accessible To Persons With Disability
NEW DELHI: Disabled. This is what you are categorised as in a country like India when you suffer from a physical limitation. But does that really mean, that they don’t have any abilities and are worthless? Well, the answer is no, because everyone in this world has certain weaknesses and certain strengths.
But we are unable to focus on the strengths because each and every task becomes a challenge. The reasons for this might seem very petty and minor to any other individual, but for me, they were always something that disturbed me and made me ask, “why should I compromise? Is it my fault?”
Being a patient of Cerebral Palsy, I always knew that I will not be able to achieve 100% mobility. So my full concentration along with the doctors who treated me was on improving my functional independence. But soon I realised that my surroundings will always be a hindrance to that.
Public transport in India is definitely not disabled friendly. A person with restricted mobility cannot think of boarding a train or a bus independently. Every time I am travelling on a train, I have to ask people to help me out in getting down from the train coach. Though the DTC buses have ramps, it is very rare that the bus conductor pulls it down for a wheelchair user.
My physical limitations compelled me to pursue my graduation in my hometown of Amritsar, a fact that I have not been able to accept till now because it had limited the opportunities I got at the time. But the question is, why did this happen? Because a disabled person cannot think of moving independently to a different city. We need such an environment that a person with special needs can lead their life as smoothly as anybody else does.
I recently started using a battery operated wheelchair when I moved to Delhi to pursue my Masters in Convergent Journalism. But the use of the wheelchair was severely limited, due to the inadequate infrastructure. This leads to nothing but frustration. Building ramps doesn’t mean that a place becomes accessible, every road needs to be re-designed so as to make them suitable for people using mobility aids.
As per the government regulations, 3% of the total seats are reserved for the disabled in every course in every government university, but no one bothers to check if the content of these courses is in accordance with the limitations of people like me. If not, it causes a lot of mental and physical harassment unnecessarily.
The curriculum needs to be redesigned. Modifications in the curriculum should be done according to the restrictions of people like me. For example, I am unable to effectively take part in the video assignments. I often wonder how I will take part in field assignments. Though the college authorities try to accommodate me, I often question why we need to face all this in the first place. Can’t the course structures be redesigned?
I always need a scribe for my exam. Finding a good scribe is a challenge every time because most universities in India don’t have effective scribe banks. So the trend is to bring your own scribe if you want to perform well. The quality of the scribes is very low, and this is usually because of the assumption that the performance level of a disabled candidate will also be equally low.
The government universities especially need to focus on developing good quality scribe banks. They should provide this facility for every exam, and not just entrances. That too, only after proper screening.
The problem is the lack of priority given to it by the authorities. The approach should be focused on a design that helps all, rather than addressing it on an individual to individual basis. One needs to understand that the issue needs attention on a mass level.
Please sign this petition to demand this much-needed change.