God has made all of us unique in some way or the other. We all have different traits, different strengths and weaknesses within us. And that is the beauty of a society. Had we all been same the variability of tastes that we experience would never have existed in the society. So are our Differently Abled section of the society which constitute a substantial population of our country, being about 2 crores.
They too have their own strengths and weaknesses. And we as a society have a moral as well as social responsibility towards such people and instead of focussing on their weakness we should try to focus on their strengths.
Many times, I have personally experienced physically challenged people are mentally more strong. We have many examples in the society where Differently Abled people have progressed and made their name and fame in the world like Mr. Stephan Hawking, Sudha Chandran, Nick Vujicic, Girish Sharma, Ralph Brawn etc. Their stories have inspired millions and will continue to do so in future as well.
Unfortunately, all Differently Abled people do not get such opportunities to prosper in life as the overall opportunities in our world compared to their number is very meagre. As a result their talents, strengths and aspirations remain unnoticed, unknown and unfulfilled.
Another hard reality is that India lags far behind in providing comfort and convenience to Differently Abled, be it our government buildings, schools, educational institutes, public places and even hospitals.
We really need to upgrade all systems of society to be, if not adequate but at least, moderate in solving their problems. Thus, there comes our role and responsibility towards such section of society. The common notion which unfortunately still remains to be corrected is the word that is mostly used for them – disabled. We need to understand ourselves as well as make others also understand that they are Differently Abled not "DISABLED" and hence need not be neglected, rather treated specially. If we consider ourselves normal then we have an added responsibility to bring peace, joy and comfort to their lives.
As goes the saying " Knowledge is power", so our prime concern should be in enabling them to have the provision of conducive environment to read, learn, experiment and become knowledgeable. It's easy to say but indeed difficult to practice. The percentage of special schools and the facilities therein are not up to the mark.
Access is the key to inclusion. To make education inclusive each and every educational institute should have special provision for enrolling such students and also facilities should be available so that they are ready for all competitions and do not feel deprived.
Educational institutions should have ramps, lifts, specially designed washrooms, additional and well trained staff for attending them, specially designed syllabus for curricular as well as extracurricular activities, special provision in institutional transport and recreation facilities. In fact these provisions need to be in place at their offices as well. Nowadays special learning devices are there which aid them in easy understanding of the content and they should be made accessible to all such people with special needs.
Even public places should be provided with some additional facilities for Differently Abled and should properly be guided and informed about the place so that they are well prepared to visit it. The point is that they should also have the access to enjoyment.
Given a conducive environment, right guidance and suitable opportunities, they are bound to prosper and will contribute to their best for the mankind also.
We should keep in mind that being healthy and physically fit, we can adjust in a number of ways but since these special people are challenged at the basic and primary level of their lives so we need to be more adjusting, understanding, thoughtful, courteous, caring, concerned, empathetic and loving too.
Dr. Asiya Nazir Khan is Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Science, Government Degree College, Pattan