World Disability Day is today – Why it Matters
We all know the statistics.
Over a billion people, that’s nearly 15% of the world’s population, are
disabled. About 80% of them live in the developing world. In
India, the disabled population is officially estimated to be nearly 21
million, although various policy papers place the figure at almost double of
that. Stigma and the lack of comfort around disability mean that the reported
cases of disability in India are far lower.
Disability low on the priority list
Given the scale, one would imagine that the challenge of inclusion would
demand, and get, urgent government action. But the reality is that
disability is far from embedded in our daily consciousness
in the way that issues related to gender inequality or religion are.
Even basic amenities like trains, buses, shops, banks, ATMs, airports,
schools, colleges, toilets, hospitals, etc etc..the list is endless..remain
impossible to access for the disabled. The quest to turn our cities into a
Shanghai or Manhattan remains confined to shiny malls and airports, while the
needs of a large section of a capable section of our population are
totally sidelined. Despite the Accessible India campaign new
buildings continue to come up without basic accessibility measures in place.
World Disability Day 2017
In this context, the theme of the International Day of Persons with
Disabilities of 2017, which is ‘Transformation towards sustainable
and resilient society for all’, is critical. Because it reminds us
that we need to come together as a people, as a society to push for
empowerment and opportunities for the disabled population. This means
investing in jobs, education, health and social inclusion. Not just build a
few ramps and wheelchairs as mere tokenism. Empowerment so they have
an equal shot at opportunities, and are ready to lead independent
lives, in every sense.
Where India stands today
India has made some progress in the last few years. The scope of the
Disabilities Act has been widened. There is greater awareness of the
crippling effects of mental health, the need to address learning disorders
and age-related issues. There is hope that people with disabilities
will get access to basic public utilities in the evolving ‘Smart
Cities’ in India.
The World Disability Day gives us an opportunity to support everyone
with disabilities, visible and invisible. Let us stop looking at
disability as a rare condition. Instead we should see it as a part of our
diversity and plan for the needs of everyone, including the disabled.
Today, let us pledge to make that happen.