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They live, with or without help

Saransh,, March 17, 2013:
Saransh, an MPhil student in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, who has cerebral palsy, shares what it takes to cope with life.

As a disabled person, I feel quite destined to have reached so far. I have a loving family, some good friends and a number of good teachers who motivated me to do well in academics and life in general.

In fact, I never thought of myself as differently abled. This happens when one takes out the stigma attached to disability. But I had my share of hardships.

Due to a positive attitude and a supportive peer group, I have not taken therapy since the past nine months. But I am diagnosed with anxiety disorder, which I have hidden from my parents as they cannot do much, except worry. Deep inside they know that I have developed a fear of walking alone.

I have studied in a Hindi medium school, followed by my graduation and postgraduation from Delhi University. From graduation onwards, I changed my medium to English as it is difficult to find the required study and writing material in Hindi.

Besides, the classes held here are in English. Although there is provision for supplementary classes for Hindi medium students in colleges, a handful of them actually take place. The language change directly affects your percentage.

Parents decide

We live in a society where there is no individuality for the young; it is the parents who decide a major part of their ward's life.

In my case, I was never under pressure from my parents, but because of my impairment, I led a very protective life that resulted in me leading a prolonged childhood. So there is a need to strike a balance between autonomy and protection in dealing with the differently abled.

During exams, I struggled each time to find a scribe. I have experienced insensitive writers who were given to me at the last-minute.

There have been instances when the exam has started and I have been kept waiting as the authorities are looking around for a scribe. That is a lot of mental pressure.
After waiting, I was given a scribe who could not write a word in English, or the one who kept giving his ‘expert comments’ while writing my paper.

When I compare JNU and DU, it is the latter that requires more work in the area of inclusion of disabled students, especially once they reach the postgraduate level. Like in DU, from MA onwards, there is no students’ representative body through which students can address their grievances.

The huge problem for locomotor disability students is inaccessibility of infrastructure. In both universities, there are many locations that have staircases but lack any railing or ramp. It is disturbing because I don’t want to take support from a passerby to help me climb the stairs.

Then the whole campus is uneven. Despite several representations to the authorities and a separate grant given to universities to build disabled-friendly infrastructure, it is still a long way to go.

Even homes are not well-equipped for the disabled to walk around freely. Many apartments do not have lifts and ramps. Crossing the road is best avoided. However hard you try to fight your disability from a personal level, such instances in public and private life constantly push you to ask for help and support, not letting you forget your disability.

(The writer’s name has been changed)

World view

*The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognises the right of children with disabilities to be included in education system and to receive individual support they require

* Systemic change to remove barriers, provide reasonable accommodation and support services is required to ensure that children with disabilities are not excluded from mainstream education

* Countries cannot achieve education for all or the ‘millennium development goal’ of universal completion of primary education without ensuring access to education for children with disabilities

International support

* Countries that are signatories to the CRPD cannot fulfil their responsibilities under Article 24 for children with disabilities because for all children, education is vital in itself but also instrumental for participating in employment and other areas of social activity
* In some cultures, attending school is part of becoming a complete person. Social relationships can change the status of people with disabilities in society and affirm their rights
* For children who are not disabled, contact with children with disability in an inclusive setting can, over the longer term, increase familiarity and reduce prejudice
* Inclusive education is thus central in promoting inclusive and equitable societies

 

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