Today is International Disabled Day, or more appropriately, International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It is a United Nations initiative to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. Our city, too, rises to the occasion to spread awareness regarding disability and to help its disabled brothers and sisters through talks and seminars, workshops, film fests, and also by suitably renovating public places. But is this merely an annual observance that does not go beyond the day, or will it really make a difference to the lives of the physically challenged? DC speaks to NGO staff, social workers and the disabled.
Sundari Sivasubbu, Communications and Programme Officer at HCLT Foundation, the CSR Wing of HCL Technologies, has Cerebral Palsy (Ataxia) from birth and uses a joy-stick operated wheelchair for mobility. What does December 3 mean to her? “I don’t believe in observing just one day for mindfulness of the disabilities amidst us. May be it can create awareness for the general public, but it doesn’t make a great impact on society. All 365 days in a year, people must work for their welfare, at least to some extent. In fact, it’s their responsibility. Disabled people must be included in all sectors of industry. When I came to Chennai 20 years ago, this city wasn’t friendly to disabled people. Things have improved since. But changes must not be confined only to locomotive disabilities. It must be implemented for mental or visual impairments as well,” she says.
(with inputs from Logesh Balachandran)
Vipin Sachdev, Chairman and Managing Director at Tuscana Kryptos, recently made an effort to render his Nungambakkam Subway outlet disabled-friendly by constructing a ramp along with the stairs. He informed DC that although they carry out renovations every seven years, abiding by Subway standards, this particular one was aimed to make their disabled customers enjoy a more comfortable visit to their stores. “Though it wasn’t aimed at World Day of Persons with Disabilities, I am glad that my effort to do something different for our stores will help the disabled. It is unfortunate that none of the public buildings, especially government ones, have disabled- friendly architecture. The exceptions are a few private sector buildings,” he says. Would his measure inspire others to do so as well? “When I get a good idea, I carry it out. I think others will do it when they feel it is their call.”
'World Day of Persons with Disabilities is akin to Deepavali Christmas and Ramzan put together for us'
Jayshree Raveendran, the founder and honorary executive director of Ability Foundation, has been fighting hard to make sure that the city looks beyond one’s disability and accept them for who they are. According to her, the city’s disabled-friendliness is subject to one’s own definition of the concept. “It depends on what you mean by disabled-friendly. If you are referring to physical barriers alone, then no, our city is not disability-friendly. However, if the reference is to attitudes, awareness and acceptance, then yes... we have certainly progressed visibly in recent years.” For her and all in the disability sector across the country, World Day of Persons with Disabilities “is akin to Deepavali, Christmas and Ramzan put together.”