Supportive step

The Central government employees, who are parents of differently-abled children, can expect some respite.

 A memorandum issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) says that parents of “disabled children,” defined as those with problems like “blindness or low vision, hearing impairment, locomotor disability or cerebral palsy, leprosy, mental retardation, mental illness and multiple disabilities,” will not be subjected to routine transfers. When parents, who are the main caregivers to children, are transferred to a new location, a child finds the move enormously unsettling. This is particularly so in the case of children with physical or mental challenges. In the circumstances, their rehabilitation could suffer. The role that a familiar neighbourhood, school and friends play in the child’s rehabilitation is significant and denying his/her this source of support is untenable. Hitherto, when parents of challenged children were transferred, they had little option. Either they moved, displacing the child or they put in their papers or opted to go on voluntary retirement. Taking care of a physically or mentally challenged child is expensive and losing a job was an additional burden on the parents.

The DoPT must be commended for its decision. It reflects a new sympathy and understanding of the challenges that parents of differently-abled children face. State governments must extend this support to their employees too. A person, who is less preoccupied with problems at home, is more productive at work. This should prompt the private sector too to be more supportive of its employees.

This step of the Central government should be followed up with other measures. The government must remove barriers in the physical environment, that is, steps instead of ramps in buildings, pot-holed pavements, etc that prevent children and others with disabilities from accessing various facilities. Although rules to this effect exist, the government has failed to act to implement them. Our perception of people with disabilities too imposes barriers on their ability to realise their full potential.

When we see or treat them as ‘handicapped’ or ‘invalid,’ we exclude them from education, entertainment or employment. Lack of awareness creation too limits their accessing of various beneficial schemes. For instance, the government-funded Niramaya scheme extends health insurance cover to those with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities. But how many of us are aware of its existence? Steps supportive of people with disabilities must be widely publicised. 

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