“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.” –  Robert M. Hensel

As per recent studies, about 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability and approximately 80% of the disabled people reside in developing nations.

The world view needs to include such persons as people with special abilities, instead of looking to them as disabled. We ought not to look down upon people with special abilities, instead we should focus on their dignity, and give them equal opportunity.

Through a series of gradual development on behalf of the United Nation, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted on 13th December, 2006. In 1992, December 3rd was proclaimed by the United Nation’s General Assembly Resolution 47/3 to be observed as the International day of persons with disabilities. The declaration of such a day aims to promote the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in all domains of society. It aims at development and increasing awareness over a period of time regarding the rights of person with disabilities in every aspect, including, but not limited to political, social, economic, cultural, religious and educational spheres.

What does disability mean in the current scenario?

“A disability is a condition or function judged to be significantly impaired relative to the usual standard of an individual of their group. The term is often used to refer to individual functioning, including physical impairment, sensory impairment, cognitive impairment, intellectual impairment, mental illness, and various types of chronic disease. This usage has been described by some disabled people as being associated with a medical model of disability.”

The society looks down at people with disabilities. We sympathize with them and treat them differently, whereas they deserve to be treated as we would like to be treated ourselves.

If we look at the current scenario of the world population, over 70% of the people with disabilities have been reported as the victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence, discrimination and child abuse. Mostly women and children with disability fall prey to rampant abuse in umpteen ways.

To further emphasize on this issue, an 11 year old intellectually disabled girl was raped by a 45 year old realtor at his office on June 16 at the Babu Khan Estate in Hyderabad .The poor girl suffering a mental disability was sexually harassed, brutally, in a state that claims to be running a rights-based model.

Person with disabilities generally receive poor medical attention, least educational motivation, fewer economic opportunities, but face a higher rate of exposure to different forms of violence. This is largely due to lack of services, information, and mostly sensitivity among other obstacles faced by them in course of their usual life. These obstacles have taken the face of social stigma, discrimination and negative social attitude.

Generally, persons with disabilities  are at much higher risk of violence-

  • Children with disabilities are at a higher risk to be sexually abused than abled children.
  • Adults having mental or physical conditions are also 1.5 % times more likely to be victims of violence.

Persons with disabilities face innumerable social hurdles in the form of prejudice, discrimination and avoidance. They become objects of  sympathy instead of empathy and are usually  pitied by abled people. In most scenarios, they are socially isolated which is mirrored by physical isolation as social stigma, discrimination, ignorance about disability and lack of social support shun them. Such social deprivation of differently-abled people rob them of employment and educational opportunities .

The society, as a whole needs to vow to bring about change and respect all equally and with dignity in lieu of the UN Convention On Rights Of Person With Disabilities which, under Article 19 recognizes the evolving concept of disability. It urges us to promote interactions among persons with impairments and abled persons to break the attitudinal environmental barriers hindering societal sects from treating each other equally.

Under the Indian Constitution Article 15 is a manifestation of “Right to Equality” under Article 14, as it enshrines a specific dimension of the principles of equality relating to discrimination by state or various grounds.

The Rights Of Person With Disabilities Act 2016, was enforced to ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy all fundamental rights and are treated with integrity. The Act also takes steps to ensure that the capacity of persons with disabilities is utilised by providing an appropriate environment to function.

Programs by bodies like National Legal Services Authority make provisions with reasonable accommodation to ensure that persons with disabilities are given access to any scheme, programme facility or service offered by them.

There are various other schemes, with respect to the Rights of Person With Disabilities, which have been taken up by the government of India under the Ministry Of Social Justice And Empowerment, like ;

  • Diksha :

This scheme was implemented by erecting Diksha centres for early intervention and school readiness for  persons with disabilities under 10 years of age, through therapies, training, provision of support members and care facilities.

  • Gharaunda :

This was a group housing scheme, set up with an aim of providing assured homes, bare minimum necessities of life long shelter and care for persons with disabilities.

  • Nirmaya :

It is scheme of health insurance- to give affordable health insurance to the people with disabilities, aid in transportation costs and facility for all OPD treatments including medicines.

  • Prerna :

This scheme was set up with an aim to give market assistance to goods sold by persons with disabilities. The scheme had an objective to provide funds in events such as exhibitions, Melas, fair etc. to sell the products made by person with disabilities. It also provides widespread channels for sale of products and services produced by people with disabilities. At least 51% of employees of people with disability have been covered under this scheme.

  • Gyan Prabha :

This scheme aimed to set up and provide educational support.

  • Badhte Kadam :

This scheme was aims to kindle community awareness, sensitisation, social integration and participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of life, to educate against myths with respect to disability and to promote social etiquettes.

There are many foundations, both national and international, which work for the betterment of persons with disabilities by financing their education and also providing opportunities for vocational training so as to give them their due rights.

Example: The Viklang Sahara Samiti, Delhi based organisation for disabled, helps them by providing resources and trains them for self-employment, provide them with loans without interest to set up their own businesses like ‘Dhabas’, ‘Paan stalls’ and ‘Mehndi stalls’ among others. They also provide scholarship for education from class 1 to graduation level in the form of financial assistance and study material and uphold the right to education by breaking through all the barriers.

In this way, persons with disabilities are being supported and given equal opportunities. However, there are many avenues in which persons with disabilities are not recognized and not given opportunities like abled people are. For this, the Government and the Community should take steps and initiatives to remove complex inequalities from the society and should emphasize sensitization through education to get rid of the stigmas. Persons with disabilities should be provided with equal opportunities and should be treated with dignity and integrity. Not importantly, they should be classified as persons with special abilities or differently abled rather than disabled and in very much disappointed with the decision of the UN to declare December 3rd as an International Day for the ‘Disabled’ rather than for ‘Differently-Abled’ and they should seriously consider rectifying this mistake.

Lastly, I look forward to the participation of the readership in extending a helping hand to the differently abled and sensitize those who are not aware.

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