According to the last census of India conducted in 2011, there are 26.8 million people with disabilities in India. Yet the country fares poorly in terms of inclusivity. It ranked 62nd among 74 emerging countries on the Inclusive Development Index compiled by the World Economic Forum. The least inclusive among the G-20 countries.
Take a look around you. How accessible is the community you live in? The markets you shop in? The office buildings, the entertainment centers, the restaurants, and bars? Public transport – the less said the better.
The disabled are always expected to adapt to the world instead of the other way around. We celebrate them only when the Paralympics team wins medals and accolades for India. But lack the will to make our country inclusive.
Last year, I shared a review of a brilliant book, Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc. A book that explored how disability is perceived by the able-bodied. Closer home, the struggle of the differently-abled increases manifolds in face of government and social apathy. Not to mention the deep-rooted cultural beliefs. And we are all well aware of the mere tokenism if any.
Disability & India: A Personal Story
One does not often understand the enormity of a situation until it is experienced in close quarters.
In 2017, my mother suffered an injury that left her bedridden for months and wheelchair-bound for another two years. Since we had lost our father earlier that year, a few formalities needed to be completed that required her to move about. What followed was an eye-opening experience that left us angry and disturbed.
Most banks, government offices, and similar office buildings were inaccessible. Add to that lack of empathy among the officials. I vividly recall being talked down to in a rather condescending tone on why I was expecting an elevator in a two-storeyed courthouse building. When informed that my mother used a wheelchair, I was matter of factly told that I could easily find someone to carry her to the first floor. After all, it was just a flight of stairs.
It is not that making a building accessible is difficult. If the army headquarters located in Lutyens’ Delhi South Block (a historical building at that) can be made accessible, why not new constructed buildings and markets.
My mother made a full recovery. But each day, differently-abled individuals are treated as invisible. Accessibility faring the last in the development plans.
Higher Than Everest: Memoirs of a Mountaineer
by H.P.S. Ahluwalia
In May 1965, Padma Shri Major H.P.S. Ahluwalia scaled Mt. Everest as a part of the first Indian team to do so. Four months later, during the 1965 Indo-Pak war, he suffered a bullet injury on the spine that left him confined to a wheelchair. Higher Than Everest: Memoirs of a Mountaineer narrates his impossible fight towards rehabilitation and achieving the dream of building India’s first world-class Spinal Injuries Centre.
An author of 13 books, I have been privileged to know him personally as a part of the extended family. We lost him earlier this year but his legacy lives on and continues to inspire.
One Little Finger
by Malini Chib
Malini Chib was born with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that makes body movement and speech extremely difficult.
One Little Finger is the inspiring story of Malini’s heroic battle against adversity, prejudice, stigmas, and stereotypes. Her experiences, her struggles, and the apathy and indifference of people towards her. The book gets its name from the one functional finger she uses to type.
The book questions why the disabled should be treated differently? The film Margarita With A Straw is based on her life.Disability & India – Memoirs and Personal Narratives @CindyAnnDSilva @nooranand #BlogaberryDazzle #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
No Looking Back
by Shivani Gupta
Twenty-two-year-old Shivani’s life was turned upside down when a car crash shattered her spine and left her paralyzed. Tragedy struck again a few years later when she suffered grave injuries and she lost her new husband in another car crash.
Today, Shivani Gupta is one of India’s most renowned accessibility consultants. No Looking Back is a deeply moving and inspiring narrative about surviving the challenges of disability in a country that treats the disabled as invisible and does not include them in the public discourse.
The Other Senses: An Inspiring True Story of a Visually Impaired
by Preeti Monga
Preeti was barely six years old when doctors diagnosed her deteriorating vision as a condition due to optic atrophy.
The Other Senses is Preeti Monga’s incredible story from a child struggling with blindness to her dismissal from school on the same grounds. From domestic violence in her first marriage to her experiences with motherhood. From rejection, trauma, and discrimination to asserting her rights and becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Do check out the TEDx Talk below where she shares an insight into the lives of the visually impaired.
I hope these books add to the much needed conversation about inclusivity in India. Do you have similar recommendations? Do share about them in the comments below.Disability & India – Memoirs and Personal Narratives @blogchatter #CauseAChatter #Inclusivity #Disability #BookChatter #BohoPonderings Click To Tweet
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