Kashmir: We are disabled, but we won’t be muted

Views from Srinagar

Akma Hannan

A group of differently-abled persons assembled at Press Enclave in Srinagar on International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 03 to highlight their issues. They staged a demonstration against discriminatory behavior, isolation and abuse they encounter in the society. The assembled protesters constituted a group of educated deaf and dumb individuals who through an interpreter narrated their daily ordeal and how society had not only neglected them but also created a ‘non-friendly environment’ for differently-abled people. The demonstration also raised an important question that if the educated differently-abled people were suffering and felt left out in the society, what about many others who even didn’t have the privilege of attending schools and colleges.
The discrimination against differently-abled people is not an issue pertaining to any particular area. Throughout the world and more particularly, in the developing countries, the persons with some physical or mental disability are subjected to ridicule and insult. To promote the understanding and spread the awareness about the issue, United Nations has marked December 03 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
The gravity of the issue can be gauged from the World Report on Disability published by World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank that more than one billion people in this world live with some kind of disability. Among these, the report says that 110-190 million people have significant difficulties in functioning. The report goes on to say that people with disabilities were more likely to be unemployed and do not receive proper health care. The report further says that children with disabilities were less likely to attend school. One of the main conclusions of the report was that people with disabilities experience increased dependency and less participation in normal activities in their particular societies.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) adopted on Dec 13, 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, reaffirms that “all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedom”.
As large as eighty per cent of the population with some kind of disability lives in developing world, where due to less awareness as well as resources, the differently-abled population face immense hardships and discrimination. As opposed to developed countries, where needs and requirements of differently-abled people are taken care of to help them lead normal lives, in south Asia region and in other developing countries, differently-abled population is left to fend for themselves and they usually end up working in toxic unregulated labor market or begging on the roads. The society in general and governments in particular have failed to provide them with a level playing field or help them at least meet the special requirement to lead a normal healthy life. This prevents the differently-abled persons to reach to their full potential, which in turn could have resulted in the creation of healthy and prosperous society. In India the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 that replaced its Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, has put the responsibility upon the “appropriate governments to take effective measures to ensure that the persons with disabilities enjoy their rights equally with others”. The Act entitles differently-abled children to right to free basic education and reservation in higher education as well as government jobs.
As per 2011 Census, India has 26.8 million differently-abled people, while as Jammu and Kashmir houses around four lakh persons with some disability. Some NGOs working with differently-abled people say the number of people living in the JK State with some kind of disability is around eight lakh. As in other parts of developing countries, due to lack of understanding and awareness, the differently-abled persons don’t receive the support and respect they deserve in the State. This coupled with government apathy towards them makes life miserable for differently-abled population.
The state lacks in basic infrastructure for people with some physical or mental disability. There are no wheelchair ramps at public places, in schools and in most of hospitals in the State. There are not many special schools that can cater to the special needs of differently-abled children in the State. Neither does the State have many trained interpreters available for deaf and dumb population who can help them communicate with fellow human beings. Instead of getting support from society and government, the people with some disability in hearing, speaking, seeing, movement or in mental faculty are suffering isolation and extra mental stress. Moreover, the laws which have been formulated in J and K with respect to ensuring the rights of differently-abled population have not been implemented on ground. As per J and K’s Disability Act (1998), it is mandatory for educational institutions in the State to provide three percent reservation to differently-abled children. The parents of differently-abled children have been complaining about non-implementation of this act in the State.
—Courtesy: Rising Kashmir
[Writer: [email protected]]

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