Society must sensitise itself to the differently-abled

  • Uddalok Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Oct 19, 2016 19:55 IST
The 2011 census says there are 21 million differently-abled persons in India (Gurinder Osan/HT PHOTO)

Travelling is generally a tedious process for all, because it involves reporting at the airport at least two hours before the departure of the flight, going through the security checks, having to discard objects the security personnel do not allow on the flight, etc. However, for the differently-abled, the hassles become manifold, as was seen in the case of the Paralympian Aditya Mehta, who had to take off his prosthetic and strip down during security checks at the airport in Bengaluru. On an earlier occasion too he had been asked to take off his prosthetic at Delhi airport. He had then written to the PMO and the relevant civil aviation authorities but he is still to hear from them.

This has once again brought up questions on security protocol for the differently-abled.

Before this incident, as early as 2014, several disability rights activists had given guidelines to the airports to be followed. Some of these were not forcing wheelchair users to stand for checks, not lifting wheelchair users, etc. The alternatives suggested were screening the passengers, and in seclusion. The problem can be lessened to a considerable extent by making it obligatory for the differently-abled to give an advance notice of, say, two days to the airport authorities, and arriving a little earlier than the rest.

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As a matter of fact, we do have rules for the convenience of differently-abled passengers. However, nothing exempts them from security checks, which results in objectionable things happening. But there are ways of avoiding inconvenience to the differently-abled. For example, a differently-abled person can be made to go through electronic checks and not be compelled to take off his or her prosthetic. In the United States, there is legislation in this regard and both in the UK and the US there are systems and procedures governing the dignity of the differently-abled.

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Apart from facing problems at airports, the differently-abled are inconvenienced in other ways also. The 2011 census says there are 21 million differently-abled persons in India and the target is to make 50% of government buildings convenient for them to use in various ways such as having wheelchair lifts, ramps, Braille signposts, etc. Constructing accessible buildings and creating mobile apps for information on inaccessible places can be made part of corporate social responsibility. But all these will remain just dreams if we do not have the right attitude towards the differently-abled and recognise that there must be enough space for them to overcome the hurdles they face.

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