Today is the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. It is one of the many days we observe throughout the year to show our commitment to various social development issues. As a person with disability, I am glad to join in its commemoration and hope that instead of mere ritualistic activities and lip-service, the day brings about a real change in the lives of persons with disabilities.
As per the Census of India 2011, there are more than 26 million persons with disabilities. Although the actual figure is expected to be much higher, it is clear that even the officially calculated figure is not a small one. Additionally, people with disabilities do not comprise a homogeneous group and have a variety of impairments. These lead to differing needs and solutions, many of which actually result in enabling them to become contributing members of society.
It is unfortunate that we continue to view people with disabilities as mere objects of pity and sympathy without actually recognising their working capacity and contributing power. It is in the interest of both the nation and its people with disabilities if they are given the opportunities they deserve to contribute to society in any way they can. It is imperative that they are given all the rights that are available to a non-disabled individual and are encouraged to be “equally participating” citizens.
Lastly, although people indulge in charity for people with disability it remains a short term solution unless it is directed correctly. Money spent on their education, skill development and empowerment will yield a much greater result than any one time donation. Therefore, let all of us decide to make every day a day for persons with disabilities and treat them with equity and dignity. Let us remember that it is no longer “their” problem but the sheer volume of the issue makes it “our” problem, and more so in a scenario where acquired disability due to increased longevity of life is on the rise.
Ketan Kothari is the Advocacy Manager at Sightsavers in India, and a recipient of the NCPEDP Helen Keller Award and the NASEOH LM Foundation Award for Excellence. He is blind since birth.