Some were on wheelchairs, others used sign language to communicate and hundreds were standing firm with white sticks — over 5,000 physically challenged people took part in World Disability Day functions here on Thursday hoping to draw attention to their plight.
Having come together at the India Gate lawns in the heart of the capital, these differently-abled people from across the country stood shoulder to shoulder raising slogans of unity. Later, they sat to watch the cultural show of young visually impaired children.
“On this day for the past three years we all gather here. There are times when it feels like a ritual. We organise the event because on this day (the World Disability Day) we can draw attention to our plight,” said Javed Abidi, convenor of the Disabled Rights Group (DRG).
Mr. Abidi added that the estimated 70 million disabled people in the country were rooting for a separate ministry for disability affairs and fulfilment of promises in the 11th Five Year Plan — that each ministry should have a clear cut plan of action on disability issues and allocate three percent of resources for improving the infrastructure.
Voicing the sentiments of the hundreds of deaf and mute, blind, autistic and other physically challenged individuals, the wheelchair-bound Abidi said: “the Government, politicians, media, civil society all suddenly get a jolt on Dec 3 and wake up to the reality we live each day.”
Kiran, a visually challenged girl said: “Even though we don’t want to, we continue to be a burden on society. Where are the opportunities that the government promises?”
Mr. Abidi said: “Almost 63 years after Independence only 10 percent of India’s disabled citizens have access to something as basic a disability certificate that ensures them benefits. This process needs to be made faster and easier than the five-month long tedious procedure followed now.”
“How much does it take to ensure that all universities appoint a disability coordinator...union budgets have not allocated any money to make our hostels, libraries and labs barrier-free. Authorities really need to become more sensitive,” he added.
Ramp at bus stands and schools, more spacious toilets in government and business establishments can go a long way to ease problems of people with disability, said Sanjay, a coordinator from an NGO.
The massive gathering of people hailed from states like Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.