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Disability is part of the human experience


The World Health Organisation estimates that more than one billion people – about 15 percent of the world’s population – experience some kind of disability like aging and an increase in the majority of non-communicable diseases. Although disability is linked to disadvantage, not all people with disabilities are equally disadvantaged. It depends actually on the context in which they live, and whether or not they have equal access to healthcare, education, and employment, among other factors.

Underlining the importance of fostering an inclusive culture and responding to the urgent needs of people with disability in all aspects of society, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, World Health Organisation came out with the theme which reflects a growing understanding that disability is part of the human condition. This year’s theme is ‘Building back better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-Covid-19 World’.


Amid the coronavirus outbreak, disability people were the worst affected due to many health, social and environmental barriers, discriminatory attitudes, and inaccessible infrastructure. So, the Covid-19 pandemic at this juncture provides a unique opportunity to build back better our health systems so that they are more inclusive and responsive to the utmost needs and human rights of people experiencing disability in all their diversity. The most important thing is that countries need to shift towards a service delivery system rooted in the communities, reaching out and empowering people with disability.

As human beings, we live in a climate of extreme discrimination, judgments stigma, labels, and isolation. Mostly our lives are a constant negotiation through these. Just imagine the impact on our physical and mental strength. In spite of the government label- Divyang (having a divine body), our disability movement still struggles for the right to education, employment, a life free of violence and abuse, among other basic things.

Sharing her experience Gayatri Devi, a housewife says, disable women often hear things like “Why do you want new clothes? Why would you want to dress up?” It means that no one is looking at you, but also that you are not desirable. The inherent message is that you don’t have the right to feel good, to feel beautiful, or even to make a choice. And that is the crux of many interactions that persons with disabilities have socially.

Vinayak Rao, partially disabled, a techie working for BPO, said when I enter a restaurant or a public space, we are stared at. When I walk with assistants or companions, interactions are directed towards us. That not only belittles our ability but our very existence. All this and more, the words and thoughts reflect some commonly held beliefs in our society. All this palpable attitude we witness today despite progressive legislation on disability rights in India, societal attitudes are locked in the ancient past.

As usual, every year, on December 3rd, the world observes the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) amid awareness marches, street plays, and cultural programs. But what we need is consistent efforts and meaningful interventions to empower the specially-abled ought to go beyond building physical infrastructure, even though specialized toilets and wheelchair ramps are still rare in public spaces.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities


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