Is our society inclusive?
An inclusive society means a society, which includes all cultures, communities, castes and religions. Unfortunately, even today, metro cities cannot be called inclusive societies as discrimination and inequality is still prevalent in urban areas. Sakal Times has tried to bring these stories in the city to the surface
Though the awareness and attitude of the people especially in rural areas have changed a lot about bringing people with disability into the mainstream, there is still a long way to go for the society to perceive the disabled individuals as ‘normal’.
We are still far achieving infrastructural inclusion in our country right now, but in addition to that, the differently-abled are facing the haunting issue of social inclusion.
The activists and educators working for the welfare of the differently-abled children state that while the attitude of the people towards the former has changed from that of pity to curiosity to some extent, the students and even elders with physical disability need to struggle a lot in order to prove their worth.
Rahul Deshmukh of National Association for the Welfare of Physically Challenged (NAWPC), who himself is visually impaired, said, “The discrimination against those with the disability starts right from the birth, in form of different treatment by parents from that of siblings, mainly in rural areas. In schools, colleges, the students fall behind as far as socialisation is concerned and often face the problems of loneliness and inferiority complex. Even finding a good, compatible life partner is a huge task.”
Although gradually, the situation is changing for sure, said Meera Badve of Niwant Andha Mukta Vikasalay, an organisation that works towards the education of the visually-challenged students.
“Around 20 years ago, there were many more difficulties. However, now, especially in the urban areas like Pune, people can be seen taking interest in the differently-abled,” she added. She said people must be made aware that perceiving these individuals as weak or dependent when they are not, might hurt them.
“At work, the colleagues and the bosses are okay with the disabled people at the posts for clerical jobs. But when it comes to higher positions, they have to fight their way up. In colleges, many professors have been seen stopping the blind students from opting for Economics or Psychology as they don’t find these children capable enough. Sometimes they are made to sit in a corner and no freedom is given to them, which makes them feel dependent,” Badve said.
However, she also mentioned that Pune has many colleges that are absolutely disabled-friendly, and provide all kind of support needed. Now, all that is needed is a good support system from the government, not just in terms of infrastructure, but also for awareness.
Even more, the society lacks the acceptance and patience required to deal with the people with mental disability. “Today, we can see the physically disabled people being accepted as there is no question of intelligence there. However, the mentally challenged ones face many more difficulties. Though there are laws against such discrimination, the schools still refuse to admit the special students. Though the students with a severe condition of mental disability need to study at special schools, those with autism, learning disabilities, slow learners can actually study with the normal children with a little effort. And although there are schools that have special educators, they don’t have all the necessary provisions for these children,” Kishori Pathak of Ab-Normal Home said.
Even though the mentally challenged are given vocational training, not many companies are ready to invest in them. There is only a handful in Pune that would give jobs to the mentally disabled. There is a need for a lot of awareness for a change to take place in the way the mentally-challenged are perceived.
— Kishori Pathak of Ab-Normal Home