Few Ways TO Make Society More Inclusive

“Foreign countries have such great systems”, “why don’t have these in India”

These are the typical replies I get from my paraplegic friend whenever I share an article or two about people with disabilities (PWDs) abroad.

And let’s be honest, India is far from being inclusive.

According to the WHO, 1 billion people have some form of disability, and 80% of these people live in developing countries like India. It is difficult to quote the exact number of persons with disabilities in India, As there is a huge difference between the official national figures and the figures estimated by global institutions.

But one thing is clear that their count is more than the total population of several nations in the world. Yet, no one can deny the fact that India still lags far behind when it comes to eliminating infrastructural, institutional and attitudinal hurdles for persons with disabilities. This shows how much ignorant we are towards the disabled community, which constitutes a notable portion of the Indian population.

We also need to keep in mind that disability does not discriminate. Any one of us can join the disability community at any point in our lives. So, Disabled or not, we all have the power and responsibility to make society more inclusive of everyone.

Here are some ways to continue shaping our world in general and India in particular, more accepting of people with disabilities.

1. Making everyone realize that PWDs are HUMANS too :

As stated earlier, almost 15% of the human race alive is living with some form of disability, So, There are chances that you know someone with a disability. They are our friends, relatives, and colleagues, and they have every right to enjoy the same standards of equality, rights, and dignity as everyone else.

picture borrowed from the internet

Yet sadly, people tend to focus only on the disability and forget that he/she is first and foremost a human being, with talents, intellect, skills, and desires, just like everyone else. Too often, those living with disabilities are being seen as objects for condescending pity and charity. And that’s why I think the biggest challenge is to change the mindset of millions around the world, who are carrying myths and preconceived notions about people with disabilities in their minds.

To achieve this, the next point on this list is a great way that will not just help in the present, but for the long run too.

2. Promoting social inclusion in schools :

Our overall social-cultural consciousness on how we treat and interact with the disability needs to change, beginning in elementary schools.

If there is social inclusion embedded in the mind at a very young age, it will lead to the authentic friendships of students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers. And less discrimination and more social inclusion will occur.

Having children with and without disabilities learning side-by-side helps everybody acknowledge the talents and gifts all children bring with them. As a society, we have the duty to promote the inclusion of our differences.

And that reflects in the new Sustainable Development Goal – 4 (set by UN), in which the quality of education is defined as equity and inclusion alongside traditional learning outcomes and has replaced the narrow goal of access to primary education specified in the Millennium Development Goal 2.

From the constitution to the centrally sponsored scheme for Integrated Education for Disabled Children (1974) in the early days to National Policy for People with Disabilities (2006). From Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education (2009) to Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 recently, The Indian government tends to write inclusive policies on education.

Picture borrowed from the internet

However, these policies often are not quite inclusive. And their implementation efforts also haven’t resulted in an inclusive system of education. For example- The Right to Education Act 2008 was brought in to reserve 25% of seats in public schools for students coming from economically weaker areas and disadvantaged groups or children with special needs. However, there are numerous stories of public schools simply refusing to accept children with special needs and comprising the reserved 25% seats with those from the deprived socio-economic backgrounds solely. Thus, out of 2.9 million children with disabilities in India, 990,000 children aged six to 14 years are out of school. The percentages are even higher among children with intellectual disabilities (48%), speech impairments (36%) and multiple disabilities (59%).

The few ones who somehow manage to get admitted to schools have their own problems too. Like, children with disabilities are targets of bullying more often than their typical peers. Parents, students, and educators need to increase their efforts to reverse this long-recognized exclusion from friendships and the social life of the school.

And even though the system is so dire, there are many who survive through all these and get graduated. But, wait, the struggle doesn’t end here.

3. Employment opportunities for People with Disabilities –

Although there is a quota of reservation for persons with disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and 3% to 5% in higher education institutions, A lot of posts, especially in group A and group B services in the government, continue to lie vacant.

Pic. Credit – The Print (click on the image to read the original post)

The specially-abled are woefully under-represented in the industry also. Because very few companies are ready to take that leap of faith. Worse, there have been many cases where employers have denied a job to a candidate with a disability, citing the usual ‘not found suitable’.

And this refusal to accept people with disabilities as contributing employees has not only lead to a loss of 3-7% of GDP annually (as calculated by the ILO), but it also has reinforced the narrative of disabled people requiring charity. To change this narrative, we need to see more people with disabilities in leadership and decision-making roles in companies, the government sector, and the entertainment sector.

But how many workplaces are “accessible”?

4. Making India accessible to all –

Although there are ongoing campaigns like ‘Accessible India”, No one can deny that India is not even close to being accessible to all. Don’t you believe me? Just take a good look at your surrounding, and you’ll understand.

Pic. Credit – Preeti Singh

Our ill-planned urban infrastructure often forces PWDs into corners: As they are unable to take the trains; use public toilets, walk the footpaths; hail cabs or bus. Less than 50% of our government buildings are disabled-friendly, as the Accessible India Campaign has found. It’s hard to believe in these numbers too, as many of these places are accessible “only on the paper”.

At present, the problem is with the implementation of the policies. Besides, there’s a need for educating government machinery about accessibility issues, who need to change the attitude. A strong political will is required to make India truly accessible to all.

5. Increasing PWDs representation in politics :

There’s an urgent need to increase disability representation in the political setting. When I googled “politicians with disabilities in India”, I got to see only five names. {That explains the lack of political will to make society more inclusive !?}

FDR, 32nd President of the US. He is often rated by scholars as one of the three greatest U.S. Presidents, along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Okay, Let’s say that the leader need not be a disabled person himself/herself to represent PWDs. But, How many local or national political campaigns have even incorporated the disability voice? Are we even encouraging the younger generation with disabilities to become politically involved?

In order to change the sordid state of affairs, it will be VERY effective if PWDs and the disability organizations mobilize themselves as a pressure group to influence the policy-makers and planners. PWDs are from different racial/ethnic groups, and maybe that’s the reason why, unlike other depressed communities, they have not been able to organize themselves politically as one community. Thus the reliance on numbers for political mileage has failed in the case of persons with disabilities.

In recent years, the discourse of disability has certainly gained momentum. Movies, Print media and TV news channels have highlighted issues of disability. But there’s still a lot more to achieve.

Simply using the word ‘divyang’ or ‘differently-abled’ won’t change the psyche of the masses towards persons with disabilities. We, disabled or not, need to become the voices asking for an inclusive society.

If we never raise our voice, then nothing will occur, and no change will happen.

Published by Mahesh Mali

Author of 'Reflections of My Youth' | Student @ SPPU | Former Fellow @BeingVolunteer | Freelancer @PlayoApp | Tennis Player

50 thoughts on “Few Ways TO Make Society More Inclusive

  1. I was just talking to my father about this, and you have spoken my mind!
    The mindset and lack of inclusivity is changing nowadays, but alas ever so slowly. Hope such posts bring about the intended change🌸

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Hi. I had been nomination for the #12 things that make me different challenge. I hadn’t nominated anyone specifically because I had left it open to everyone. I would like it if u try out this challenge. Looking forward to your response 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great post. Even though we may have more access in some ways for our physically-handicapped here in Canada. This segment of the population remains underemployed and more often live in poverty. It isn’t fair, but we all have a long way to go to make things right. All the best, Muriel

    Liked by 1 person

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