Important Section of Society: Specially Challenged

Meena Agarwal (Retd Principal, KVS)

We are blessed that we are able to lead a normal life. We need not to depend on others to perform our day today activities. But we know that in our society there are people who are not able to lead a normal life and depend on others for their day to day functions because of some or the other deformity in their body or mental disability. We call them physically/mentally challenged or disabled or handicapped.

Some of them are physically born-handicapped and some are mentally retarded. There are people who have lost limbs or sense organs on account of an attack of some disease. Others have become victims of goons or accidents such as train or bus accidents, bomb-explosions, fire-burns, injury in factories, riot victims or bear war injuries and so on.

They are deprived of the pleasures of enjoying a normal life. We must not look down upon these persons as social burdens or less privileged. They must be encouraged to face life boldly and to feel that life still holds charm for them. They need to be provided means to lead a respectable life and make such arrangements that these persons don’t face miserable situations. It becomes the duty and onus of all gifted and normal persons to facilitate these people and provide provisions to let them lead a normal and respectable life as far as possible.

But that is not enough. Disabled people’ or ‘Differently abled people’ should get the emotional, financial, and physical support from the society. We should have sympathy for them. We all should come forward to fight against discrimination against differently abled people. Every person on earth deserves equal respect. As for the handicapped children the parents and other members of the society should have a soft corner in their hearts to acknowledge their position in the society. Further, since disabled people are actually ‘differently abled’ people, they should get enough opportunity to sharpen their skills and bring out the amazing hidden talents.

Many disabled people in our country face discrimination on a regular basis which comes in their day to day activities in many forms. Very few employers hire disabled people as the latter is considered more a liability than an asset in the organization. However, these fears are completely unfounded. Many a blind and hearing impaired persons have contributed tremendously to organizations they are attached to. In fact, there are many cases of how disabled personalities have done themselves proud by being their own bosses. Their success stories include those who run their own business such as shops, restaurants, handicraft centres in addition to those who have become teachers and professionals through sheer hard work and determination. Many have even become successful sports persons participating in Paralympics Games and winning medals. It is a folly to think that only physically abled people can make one's country and nation proud.

However, those who are successful are only a handful. Since many encounter discrimination, they tend to alienate themselves from society as they feel unwanted and rejected, Our mind set has to change to accept these people and integrate them into our society.

The government should introduce steps to ensure all the disabled people have access to education and employment. In fact, special legislations and laws ought to be introduced that make it compulsory for employers to allocate a certain number of jobs for the disabled ones. The Welfare department too should provide financial assistance and medical access to disabled persons who come from poor backgrounds.

Ongoing campaigns to educated society on the need to accept and live in harmony with the disabled, rather than treat them as burdens, need to be launched. In fact, the awareness should start from a young age. Instead of setting up special schools for the disabled, the government should institute regulations to abolish such schools and the disabled children to be sent to regular schools. This would enable the regular students to understand and accept their peers despite the latter being obviously disadvantaged. The disabled children too would not suffer from low esteem or even feel embarrassed mixing with regular children.

In addition, most of our public infrastructure, public transport and government buildings are not disabled-friendly. There has to be a concerted effort to ensure the disabled have access to these places and not feel hampered or dejected in anyway.

Thus, it is high time that we accept the disabled as an equally important component of our society. Despite their disability, they play an important role in our lives and at the same time they need our respect, acceptance and understanding.

They can achieve great success if they are given enough opportunity. A man who is blind may develop a talent for music. We give below, few examples of these celebrities: Beethoven, who was deaf, became a world-famous musician.

Preethi Srinivasan At the age of 17, led the Tamil Nadu women’s cricket team into the national championships. Also a state-level gold winner in swimming, Preethi became a quadriplegic after an accident. Her own trauma inspired her to create Soul Free, a foundation that aims to help Indian youth with disability and mentors them on rehabilitation techniques. Instead of the term ‘differently abled’, Soul Free employs the term ‘positively-abled’ for those suffering from a disability. This year she also received the Kalpana Chawla Award for Courage and Daring Enterprise.

Arunima Sinha hailing from Uttar Pradesh, is the first female amputee who climbed Mount Everest. A former national-level football and volleyball player, Arunima lost her leg in a tragic train accident in 2011 when she was travelling to take the CISF examination. In 2014, her book “Born Again on the Mountain” made its debute. How I Lost Everything and Found It Back was launched by Indian PM Narendra Modi. In 2015, she was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award in India. Later on, she started an NGO called Chandrashekhar Azad Khel Academy to mentor underprivileged handicapped children. Today her students are her life, and she is ardently working hard to amass Rs 25 crore to establish proper infrastructure, training, education, and growth for them.

Ruma Roka quite early in life, understood the value of helping, empowering, and supporting the disabled, especially those who suffered from hearing loss. In 2004, she learned sign language, and later went on to establish the Noida Deaf Society in 2005. After years of struggle, today NDS has 39 trainers who can mentor the students with hearing loss. The foundation also helps in increasing the employment opportunities for them.

Malathi Krishnamurthy Holla, Bengaluru-based sportswoman is a rare story of inspiration and an internationally recognized para-athlete from India. She represented India for the first time in Paralympics at Seoul in 1988. Along with working as a manager at the Syndicate Bank, Malathi also runs Mathru Foundation, where she focuses primarily on children suffering from polio whose parents cannot afford the necessary medical care. She has also won Padma Shri and Arjuna Awards.

Deepa Narasimhan suffered from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) during her childhood. She herself suffered due to the lack of employment opportunities for the disabled in the corporate sector. As things changed and new opportunities knocked at her door, she eventually went ahead to play a pivotal role in starting the Profound Disability Internship Programme for disabled people searching for employment in the corporate sector. As of now, Deepa is working as Diversity and Inclusion Head at Dell EMC and works strongly for creating an equitable workforce.

Nirmala Kewlani allowed her wheelchair to become an impediment in how she lived her life. Not only did she fight for her own dreams, she made it possible for thousands of others who are like her to demand their entitlement as well. She filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against Brihanmumbai Electric Supply & Transport in Mumbai, asking them to implement the Person with Disability Act (PDA), eventually leading to 30 disabled-friendly buses in the city. For the past 12 years, Nirmala has been working to empower the lives of disabled people. She is a member of Sukriti Foundation, Access for all Social Foundation, and Nina Foundation.

Sudha Chandran of our country is another instance who has become a celebrity as a dancer with her artificial leg and it has been possible for her iron-training to rehabilitate with dignity in our society. This Indian actress and classical dancer needs no introduction. Born in Kerala, this 50-year-old artist met with an accident when she was just 16. Doctors missed a small wound in her ankle and plastered it, which later got infected and there was no alternative left but to amputate her leg. She overcame her disability by getting a prosthetic “Jaipur Foot” and became one of the most popular and acclaimed classical dancers of the country having performed Bharat Natyam around the world.

Ravinder Jain born visually impaired started singing at a very young age and took his passion to a new height when he joined the Indian music industry, becoming one of the most notable music directors of the 1970s. He was so dedicated towards his work that when, during one of the recording sessions, his father passed away, but he still did not leave the recording room until the recordings were finalized. Apart from composing various ‘super-hit’ songs for Hindi movies, he had also launched several private albums which were praised by many.

When it comes to inclusion, India still has a long way to go in making way for people with disabilities. From daily challenges to the stigma that the differently abled face, India needs to undergo a complete transformation. The biggest push for change has come from people who have faced the challenges themselves. Though the journey is still marred by ups and downs, a few women leaders, who themselves have suffered disability, are ferociously supporting their cause and creating awareness.

These Indians with disabilities prove that it is just a state of mind. These amazing people have not let their disability hold them back them in any way. From performing in international arenas to bagging gold medals in sports events and excelling in various fields in spite of their disability and inspire us in so many ways every day, there is nothing these champions cannot do. They have made us so proud and proved that “Disability is a state of mind”.

We all the volunteers at Dadhichi Deh Dan Samiti, takes the inspirations from all these National Heros, carriers of indomitable courage and torch bearers rededicate ourselves to Maharishi Dadhichi to achieve the targets. We have dedicated ourselves to this cause by relentlesly pursuing for eye donation, bone donation and skin donation. This is our little contribution to the society.