Monday, 9 June 2014

Dear Mr. President, please do not make vacuous statements

Our politicins are masters of giving speeches where they seem to promise all
sorts of good things, when in fact they have carefully chosen their words so
they cannot later be faulted for not having fulfilled their promise.

Our president, in a recent address, mentioned `specially abled' people for
the first time. Great progress, you would think; but sift through his three
sentences with a toothcomb:

The welfare and rehabilitation of specially - abled people is integral to my government's vision of a caring society.

Hold your horses, Pranab-da! I need no rehabilitation from you or anybody. I don't want your caring society's offer to carry me up three steps when you have not had the forethought to instal a ramp when you have steps. I do not need your sympathy and caring; I want to be able to participate in any walk of life that you are able to.

It will take steps to provide dignity of life to them by facilitating their participation in all walks of life. 

Mention ten, or even just three, specific steps your government will take to `provide dignity of life' to me. Will you make it possible for me to get out of my house on my wheelchair, get down from the pavement to the road, and cross the road? Will you make it possible for me to take a bus or train or metro? Will you make it possible for me to exercise my franchise at the next elections? And will I be able to do all these three things by myslf without having to have somebody to help me achieve each of these mind-boggling and death-defying feats?

Steps will be taken to identify their special needs and to provide institutional care to them.

And what is this new terminology `special needs'? You and our prime minister need spectacles to read anything, while I do not need any such aids to read. I need a wheelchair to move around while you are able to walk. Is your need special or is mine special? Maybe one is `more special' than the other? I notice you are planning to have special institutions to dish out the special needs for the specially abled. I just hope these are not the kind of institution where people with certain kinds of special needs are kept tied up in chains and possibly get charred to death when thee is a fire in their `special institution'.

India is supposd to be a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. (Please note the internationally accepted terminology: I am not a disabled person, just a person with disability who is rendered disabled by an unfriendly environment riddled with barriers!) When we became signatories to the UNCRPD, we promised to `take steps' to ensure a barrier-free environment and inclusive society; the only steps I can see are more buildings with steps but no ramps!

So please make measurable promises and live up to them - and do not dish out this vague nonsense which still reeks of the old `charity model of disability' rather than the one that empowers people with disability to lead useful lives in dignity!

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