Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi on Thursday underlined the need for more awareness and sensitivity in society towards people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and acceptance of the fact that disability is not a stigma. He was speaking after inaugurating Sristi foundation’s residential homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at Konamangalam near Tindivanam.
“People with physical and intellectual disabilities are forgotten so much that we don’t have an accurate and proper count of how many people in our society are differently-abled. When it comes to intellectual disability, the tendency of the parent is all the more to suppress it and when the child happens to be a girl, invariably the parents are in a denial mode because they are worried about what will happen to the child. In this process, a lot many of our people and children are not getting the assistance they need. They are ignored and forgotten,” he said.
“Though the Government has a role to play, it alone cannot address this issue for various reasons. People in the government do their jobs whereas service to such children is not the job of an employee. It is the job of one who feels connected. The government can build roads, factories, and school buildings but to attend to people in need of special care needs inner commitment and care,” he said.
The Governor also appreciated Villupuram Collector D. Mohan for his efforts in focusing on the developmental needs of the differently-abled and hoped that other District Collectors would also emulate this.
Noting that a lot of people in the society had the urge or desire to do something, Mr. Ravi said that service is one of the most ancient traditions of the country.
“We need to create awareness in the society and create incentives for those who are working in this field and those who wish to work in this field. We need many more Sristi foundations and more people like its founder Karthikeyan Ganesan in this country,” he said.
Expressing concern over the rise in number of children born with autism and developmental disabilities, Mr. Ravi said that it was a wide spectrum. According to a study in the U.S., one in every 50 children is diagnosed with some kind of intellectual disability. This is a huge number, he said, adding that there was no reason to believe that this number was not increasing in our country.
A sample survey by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment revealed that more than 5 million children in India are suffering from intellectual disabilities. This number is conservatively low and when it comes to girl children it is not reported. While physical disability is noticed at birth, intellectual disability manifests itself much later, only after a few years. The first response of the parents is vehement denial followed by acceptance later, he said.
“There is a need for greater awareness in society and acceptance of the fact that disability is not a stigma. There are millions and millions of children who are born like this. They are our children and our citizens. They have a right to live with dignity and self-respect. The society has to work together and make these children capable and for that each one needs to help in one’s individual capacity,” he added.
District Collectors D. Mohan (Villupuram) and E. Vallavan (Puducherry), Karthikeyan Ganesan, founder, Sristi Foundation, Srimath Sivagnana Balaiya Swamigal (Mailam Bommapuram Adheenam) also spoke.