Swarnalatha is a young activist in Coimbatore in Tamilnadu who needs a wheelchair for mobility. She writes on Facebook: “I’m not the complaining type, but Election Commission of India (ECI) promised 100% accessibility at all polling booths. They promised wheelchairs and volunteers to assist people with disabilities and senior citizens. I found none. ECI disappointed me. These ramps are a joke! I had to seek help from police on duty to lift my wheelchair twice, once to get into the compound and second to get into the building itself and return. Wonder if I could once in my lifetime vote with dignity.” Please read: https://www.facebook.com/swarna.latha.31586/posts/2421934964507809
We had blogged about Swarnalatha earlier; please see https://palliumindia.live-website.com/2018/09/women-of-substance/ and https://palliumindia.live-website.com/2018/09/women-of-substance-calendar-launch/.
And see what Pallium India’s Ashla Rani wrote in the Times of India in 2017. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/toi-edit-page/when-compassion-isnt-enough/. She writes about the difficulties of entering a restaurant with friends, “…..kind friends and waiters in the restaurant would offer to lift my chair and take me to the restaurant. Imagine yourself in my position. Would you like to feel that you are burdening four or more people? Perhaps one of the waiters has a bad back and you are contributing to his eventual incapacitation? How would you like to be the object of sympathy of a dozen eyes, curiously concentrating on this helpless body being carried up?”
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, recently passed in Indian Parliament to give effect to a related UN Convention of 2006, promises among other things equality of opportunity and accessibility. This is the follow up action to a UN convention India had ratified as early as in October, 2007!
Laws alone will not change anything. Not if the society does not wake up and realize that the differently abled are part of this world and have a right to this world. As Ashla says, “My request is to you – each one of you.…. give a minute to put yourself in the place of someone who has a disability or paralysis. Allow us to be human beings. Break the barriers that prevent us from reaching your world”.