DISABILITY :CHALLENGES VS RESPONSES
( By Ali Baquer; Anjali Sharma )

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c-By Way of Recommendations

Despite growing universal awareness of the rights of people with disabilities, bold political decisions and practical actions taken in several countries, including India, in the form of the enactment of appropriate laws, the plight of most disabled people remains serious. Disabled people are, undeniably, the victims of discrimination, marginalisation and of a vicious cycle of multiple deprivation. Their situation is "the silent emergency" of our times because they are prevented from participating in the mainstream activities of society. They may not be able to tolerate this injustice for too long and have started to demand their rightful status.

The following recommendations are based on authors’ in-depth study of available literature on the subject; serious consultations with several dozen well-informed people; extensive interactions with a large number of disability activists; practical and emotional suggestions of disabled people themselves; expert advice of professionals, administrators, policymakers and scholars:



  1. Priority should be given to the prevention of disabilities, early diagnosis and treatment of those identifie as disabled.
  2. Priority should be given to provide financial assistance for the whole family in case of the primary bread winner becoming disabled.


  3. Priority must be given to poor persons with disabilities in all poverty alleviation programmes.


  4. Priority must be given to disabled women in all policies and programmes aimed at eradicating discrimination against them and helping their empowerment.


  5. Priority must be given to steps which make society and environment barrier-free


  6. Priority must be given to strengthen the network of community services to prevent situations of homelessness or institutionalisation for disabled people.


  7. Priority must be given for residential care (both short-term and long-term) for those disabled people whose parents/families are unable to continue looking after them on account of their own ill-health, old age or death.


  8. Priority must be given to appointing a Union Minister for Disability with separate and exclusive responsibility for formulating and implementaing of policies having positive influence on all aspects of the lives of disabled people as well as for coordinating, monitoring and evaluating all programmes in the interest of disabled children, men and women.


  9. Priority must be given to the teaching of courses as well as undertaking must be theoretical and applied research on disability issues in all relevant academic fields. Such efforts supported by creating academic posts at all levels of teaching hierarchy, in schools, colleges, universities and institutions of distance education. Adequate funds must be earmanked for this.


Information



  1. A National Resource Centre should be set up, equipped with modern technology, convenient and standard mechanisms for the collection and dissemination of information on disability issues, demographic data, provisions and shortfalls of services for people with disability, their socio-economic status, employment, educational needs and achievements, housing designs and house ownership, etc.


  2. Specific arrangements must be made so that people with visual handicap, hearing defects and intellectual impairment have direct access to information and they too learn about the world around them; make use of educational, employment, travel and entertainment facilities open to the non-disabled.


  3. Information relevant to the needs of disabled people (relating to health, education, employment, transport, recreation, legal rights, etc.) should also be made available in Braille, on audio/visual tapes and sign language because lack of information and knowledge increases their problems of isolation and marginalisation.


Legislation



  1. The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 and its Rules 1996 must be translated into all regional languages and disseminated so that its various provisions, benefits, etc. become widely known.


  2. Arrangements must be made, either through statutory or voluntary agencies, of providing support and interpretation in legal and other representations to courts, police, and other bodies for and on behalf of disabled petitioners specifically the mentally retarded, the mentally ill, the profoundly deaf and the illiterate.


Media



  1. Coverage in programmes must be increased in the electronic and print media which promote positive attitude towards persons with disabilities.


  2. Awareness generating programmes should be promoted to cover issues related to disability, schemes/provisions for people with disability, educational facilities, employment opportunities, potentials of people with disability, etc.


  3. Distorted, negative and inaccurate images of persons with disabilities in films, TV serials, radio and television programmes, books, newspapers should be prohibited and positive and appropriate image should be portrayed.


  4. News coverage in both the print and electronic media must be made sensitive to the real struggles of disabled people - lack of education/employment and inaccessibility to opportunities/information. They should be portrayed as real people and not as the objects of pity.


  5. Persons with disabilities should be appointed to decision–making bodies related to media.


  6. Encouragement must be given to disabled writers, artists, makers of film/TV programmes and others competent to produce, make and exhibit programmes on disability issues for generating greater awareness and increasing knowledge of disabled and non-disabled audiences.


Architecture



  1. Barrier-free designs of public places, buildings, roads, footpaths, transport facilities should be promoted and renovation of old buildings should be done to make them disabled-friendly and barrier-free by providing ramps, wide doors, convenient amenities, safe public places, etc.


  2. Barrier-free designs, with the specific needs of people with sensory, intellectual and physical impairments should be made an integral part of the curricula of architects, town planners and engineers, etc.


  3. Sign language interpreters should be available in public places for convenience of deaf persons.


Education



  1. Disciminatory attitudes towards educating disabled people, with their roots in traditions and unfounded myths, must be replaced with progressive ideas and practices supported by relevant research findings.


  2. For the education of children and adults with disabilities there should be sufficient financial, technical and human resources as well as adequate infrastructure for providing education.


  3. There should be provisions of teaching science, mathematics and technical skills to disabled students in secondary and high schools.


  4. All teacher training courses should have the components of special education and for children with special needs.


  5. Financial and other incentives must be provided for teachers to acquire special skills and techniques to manage disabled children with special needs.


  6. Incentives and transport facilities must be provided to parents to send disabled boys and, more importantly, girls to school and to complete their education.


  7. Appropriate supply of adequate educational materials - Braille text books, audio-visual assistive devices should be easily available.


  8. NGOs and other professionals, with experience in the field of education of disabled children, must be involved in preparing training modules for specific age groups of disabled children in the different areas of disability.


  9. Responsibility and incentives must be given to established NGOs for the training of staff in schools at the district/block/village levels.


  10. Emphasis must be given to the pre-and in - service training of teachers and periodic follow ups must be arranged to upgrade their skills and these should be accorded due recognition/incentives.


  11. In all school activities relating to disabled children greater community participation must be encouraged and facilitated through early interventions, increasing knowledge and awareness of parents of disabled children, setting up of parent-teacher consultative groups to assist schools in responding to the changing individual educational needs of disabled children, organisation of additional support for regular classroom teachers, etc.


  12. Efforts should be made to control the drop-out rates through various incentive schemes such as government programmes like mid-day meal scheme, financial benefits to students and their parents, residential schools, free uniforms, free reading material, remedial coaching, etc.


  13. Integration of children with special needs in general education school should be systematically expedited.


  14. Sufficient care must be taken that the present educational system for disabled scholars, either through integrated or segregated arrangements, which tends to justify the continuity of discrimination, does not produce a crop of socially and academically handicapped individuals.


Employment



  1. New employment opportunities should be identified and created in formal and non–formal sectors, including the cooperatives and self-employment schemes.


  2. Appropriate training should be provided to persons with disabilities to start and manage their own businesses.


  3. Conveniently-located production centres should be set up to provide economically active disabled people jobs.


  4. Efforts must be made to prevent forcing suitably qualified disabled workers accept poorly-paid, low-skilled, low-status and unrewarding jobs in poor working conditions such as job security, opportunities for promotion and advancement.


  5. Sufficient attention must be paid to the assessment and training to those born with disabilities as well as to those who have recently acquired a disability and thereafter providing suitable job opportunities to them.


  6. Low-interest loans should be provided to persons with disabilities so that they set up their own business.


  7. Employers must be reassured that disabled workers can contribute to their production and output and in order to facilitate job opportunities workplaces can be made accessible at low costs. Furthermore, they must understand that impairment is not the same as ill-health and disabled workers are punctual and regular in attendance.


  8. Advertisements offering job opportunities must be worded with special care to include disabled candidates.


  9. Able-bodied workers must be discouraged from expressing and practising discrimination against disabled colleagues.


  10. The current quota requirements for disabled workers must be honoured by employers and those fulfilling these must be provided with inducements and subsidies by the government and those ignorning it must be discouraged with adequate disincentives.


  11. A task force should be created by the government, with the help of NGOs and private sectors, to provide specialised help and sustained support to all employers in the recruitment, training, morale building and career development of disabled workers as well as job orientation to disabled employment seekers.


Miscellaneous



  1. Continuous efforts must be made by disabled people, and those working with them and the relevant government departments, to get more categories of disability included in the Act such as those with autism, hemophilia, Alzneimer’s disease, etc.


  2. Medical models of categorising and assessing disability should be replaced by social models and brought in conformity with international definitions and standards.


  3. Collective efforts must be made by the entire society to fight against the extreme social isolation of most people with disabilities and their families and through increasing opportunities for social contacts and participation in leisure and recreational activities.


  4. The barriers and obstacles which prevent disabled people, particularly disabled women, from participating in political life of the country must be removed and they must be encouraged to excercise their political rights through voting, membership of decision-making bodies from the village level to right up to the Parliament.


The above recommendations are, of necessity, only a selection and reflect the extent of support systems that people with disabilities currently require. These recommendations also betray the seriousness of discrimination that disabled people face throughout their lives. It is difficult to ignore the ideology of community care or even community based rehabilitation. These are addressed as much to the government as to NGOs, international organisations, funding agencies, academic institutions, scientists and technologists, and people with disabilities and all others who are concerned about disability issues.

Although there has been a steady increase in the funding of services for disabled people, the actual financial resources are not quite in accordance with their needs and must be improved to avoid negative consequences on the life of disabled people.

The most important message of this book is that disabled people must not be regarded as "different" or "aliens". Recent events in India have demonstrated the limitations of single-disability issue pressure groups and the advantages of inter-disability self-advocacy approach. Such healthy trends must be systematically strengthened. People with disabilities must be actively and directly involved in the analysis of the reasons for their long and miserable social isolation. They should play a central role in formulating policies of total integration; in designing specific programmes of actions and in bringing about lasting positive changes in their own lives characterised by self-assertion, dignity and independence.

The problems of one out of every ten Indians should no longer be deliberately or inadvertently ignored. The indifference of nine out of every ten people is overwhelming and suffocating for people with disabilities and is humiliating for society as a whole. This chronic and calculated indifference must be replaced with understanding, awareness, enlightenment and purposive action for the good of disabled and non-disabled people alike.

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