I live in India. With 1.2 billion others like me. We see injustice happening. We voice demands for our rights. We even stand up if needed against the violators. But some 21 million among us (Disability Census 2001, Govt. of India) can’t quite do this in the same ways as mine and most others. They are differently abled.
Back in 1985, the now founder of Shanta memorial Rehabilitation Centre was being forced to pack his wheelchair in the luggage cabin leaving him no means of disembarking the train. Following this the agitated locals in Orissa (a state in India) witnessed formation of Joint forums for the disabled which later contributed to the formulation and implementation of PWD Act, 1995. And come January 2012 when the Head –Advocacy and Disability studies, Jeeja Ghosh was deplaned on the pilot’s discretion ,disabling her from attending a conference in Goa for “mainstreaming the differently abled” . The Railway technology might have advanced to airways over the years, denial of human rights for the differently abled remaining just the same.
Coming to road accidents we are world #1 with a toll of around 15 lives per hour and more than 60 being critically injured in the same time span. Giving shelter to 21million differently abled people, RCI recognized Rehabilitation Centers in the country are less than 10, private ones adding up to less than 100. So tomorrow, if I happen to fall from a terrace 20 feet high, acquiring brain injury in a remote village in India, I will eventually succumb to a life equivalent to death with factors being • Lack of health education, • Unawareness to right to access medical care , • Inaccessible roads and rails leading me to the nearest Rehab Centre • Nearest government Rehab Centre being a few thousand kilometers away • population burden on each rehab center • Economic restrains in availing private rehab options
As a student in the field of rehabilitation, I get to work with differently abled people and it’s a two way learning process. I have spent three years comparing the ideal standards of living (of the differently abled) with the actual ones. Fancy motorized wheelchair independence for commuting and winning medals in the Paralympic Games is a life that is happening only to the financially well to do group of differently abled people in this nation. Most others, owing to their low socioeconomic status and disabling barriers in the environment, are living a life of social exclusion. For the lucky few who get treated soon after an acquired disability, life is fair only till inside the Treatment Centre. The local buses and trains have a 3 feet high floor and their offices don’t have ramps. Free healthcare and mobility aids are not being made available and to top it all, the society is still looking down at them as the ‘helpless individuals.’
Many such instances were reported and the need to find solutions to these led to the CBR movement.
Community based rehabilitation (CBR) was introduced in the Alma Ata conference 1978 to be used as a tool for “Health for all by 2000”.Some hospitals have been working on WHO guidelines, training volunteers, health education, financial aids provision and mobilizing the societies to help handle the challenges of disability . But this initiative is only a drop of water and it cannot quench the thirst of millions. Disability needs to be addressed as an epidemic in India and social inclusion a reality.