Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Differently Abled in India

     Today, there is a lot more respect for the differently abled than there used to be. Especially with the passage of acts such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the United States has become a more hospitable place for the differently abled. While there is still far to go, inroads have been made socially as well, towards acceptance of the differently abled. However, across the ocean in India, many issues currently affect the differently abled.

  While about 4-8% of India's population (40-80 million people) is differently abled, it is currently very difficult for them to access facilities in India. For example, even in Delhi, the capital of India and one of its most opportunistic cities, it is almost impossible for the visually impaired in India to perform daily tasks unassisted, due to the roads being very uneven and full of hidden potholes, as well as the high dangers involved with crossing the road. Life is also very difficult for the mobility impaired: many shops require people to go up stairs, and public transport is not wheelchair accessible. These problems affect not only the differently abled, but also the aging population of India. Many of the older people in India are unable to take walks due to poorly maintained or nonexistent sidewalks. These infrastructure problems are further compounded by a lack of public sensitivity.

     At the moment, public sensitivity for the differently abled in India is very low. The situation is such that a lot of people either try to help the differently abled to the point of controlling them or that they ignore them completely. Differently abled children and adults are sometimes abandoned on the road, even those who come from a wealthy family. A lack of sensitivity prevents cities from moving forward with comprehensive accessibility reform, but hope is starting to emerge.

     The above picture is from an NGO started by Ravi Kaira, and is known as the Earth Saviours Foundation. They are committed to such causes as stewardship of the environment, reducing noise pollution, and care of the differently abled. They operate a shelter which picks up the differently abled people who are abandoned off of the road. They care for them by provide shelter, education, and other support. Groups, like the Earth Saviors Foundation are helping to increase the sensitivity for the differently abled in India while providing a safe place for them. These groups receive more and more volunteers and staff each year and signal the possibility of a bright future for the differently abled youth in one of the fastest developing countries in the world, India.

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