Today, December 3, is International Disability Day. There are several programmes and functions arranged across the city, to create awareness about the disabled and prove to the people that they, too, have a voice.
This is one day when the spotlight will be on the disabled, but, what the messages say is that we cannot reserve one day in a year when the disabled are actually on our radar. There has to be an increase in facilities for the handicapped, disabled or differently-abled. Buildings in the city, especially old ones, have little or no amenities for the disabled. There are no ramps for wheelchairs, doors are narrow, and, generally, the building is designed not be to disabled-friendly. There are so many places that are simply out of bounds for the disabled, because they cannot access them. Recreational facilities, public utilities and even places like shopping malls, many are out of bounds for the handicapped.
Public transport is a huge challenge for them. We hardly have any low-floor BEST buses, though we must laud the few seats the BEST reserves for them. There are enough horror stories about how the handicapped compartment in local trains is often taken over by others who are not supposed to travel in it. Though one does understand that old buildings cannot be altered easily, it is up to the people to emphathise with this section and see that one includes them in every aspect of life. Upcoming buildings should be given permission only if they have some basic amenities for the disabled. Compartments and seats reserved for the disabled are for them only, and must not be encroached.
Most importantly, they have to be made to feel that they have a stake in society. Often, people condescend to remember them only on certain occasions, when convenient. They also have to be factored into political policy. We still see that so many venues chosen for polling are inaccessible to the disabled.
Let us, authorities, lawmakers and ordinary people do our best to banish this culture of exclusion. Let us make it a more inclusive world for them, for they, too, are inspiring and valuable contributors to the world we live in.