For a normal person, traveling by public transport is tiresome, to say the least. How much more exasperating is it for those of us who are physically challenged who have no choice but to commute to places within a city that is hostile to the very basic needs of disabled people? NMTV Editor-in-Chief Dr. Ravi Subbaiah had first-hand experience of this at the Thane Sessions Court and Vashi Sessions court. When Dr. Ravi visited this court, he was horrified to learn that there are no ramps, no wheelchairs and no lifts to go on the top floors of the court making any visit for the disabled a painful task. And that is why NMTV Editor-in-Chief Dr. Ravi Subbaiah has started a battle for right to dignified life for the disabled. There are 600 million persons with disabilities in the world today. Eighty percent of them live in developing countries. A staggering 90 million people in India are disabled. That’s almost one in every ten. These figures in the very beginning of our report are not mentioned to create any sympathy for persons with disabilities. The aim of mentioning these figures is to illustrate that these 600 million persons with disabilities that are still being subjected to discrimination deserve protection of their basic right to a life of dignity and self-respect. The issue that NMTV has taken up to begin this battle is accessibility of persons with disabilities to the Thane Sessions Court and Vashi Sessions Court. In the last fortnight Dr. Ravi Subbaiah visited these court several times and was horrified to learn that there are no ramps, no wheelchairs or lifts for disabled persons. There is a long distance between the entry of the courts and the rooms where cases are heard or where disabled persons have to visit for compensation but in the absence of ramps and wheelchairs, disabled people are often crawling and then are lifted on staircases by those who offer help. And if the visits have to be often, then the visit to these courts becomes a physically painful and mentally demoralizing task. This despite that fact that the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995 and Article 21 of the Constitution itself guarantees right to life with dignity for all. First let’s take a look at what the The Act establishes responsibility on the society to make adjustments for disabled people so that they overcome various practical, psychological and social hurdles created by their disability. The Constitution of India * (The constitution of India) states that As Citizens of India, persons with disabilities are entitled to all those human and fundamental rights which are guaranteed to each and every citizen by the Constitution of India. The fundamental right to life and liberty that flow from Article 21 of the Constitution include the right to live with human dignity. Unfortunately, these rights and legislations still remain on paper. Maya Kishore – a Rehab Social Worker working with persons with disabilities for the last two decades narrates the horrifying experience that disabled people go through when she takes them to Thane Sessions Court for compensation under insurance schemes. She admits that the conditions of disabled with premises on court are against the right to life of dignity for them. And it’s not only the courts but there are many other hostile realities that persons with disabilities have to face. Maybe it’s time to borrow a leaf from Taiwan’s book. Why Taiwan, you may ask? The reason being is that the government of Taiwan, a country not remotely as large and developed as ours, offers stunning benefits to those who suffer from physical handicaps. Vehicles are modified to suit the physical condition of the handicapped and there are special drivers for the blind. The icing on the cake however is the arrival of a bus at the doorstep of the handicapped person. All it takes is a telephone call. Concessions are offered in the areas of education, occupation, transport and accommodation. * Can our country offer its people these benefits too? * Can atleast basic necessities like ramps and wheelchairs be made available in public places of judicial and government importance? * Will we learn to be more sensitive to the needs of the persons with disabilities? We can, only if we try.
November 8, 2015