Each one of us has a responsibility towards them
A couple of years ago, I had a first-hand experience of what it means to be ‘disabled’. I had fallen from two steps, in the school where I taught English.
The doctors said, that I need knee replacement operation within a week if possible. It was too big a shock for me, also my students’ final exams were round the corner, so I decided to postpone the operation till the summer vacations. I suffered a lot of pain at every step, and had to use a stick or wheelchair. I had to walk with a very strange gait. I still went for my trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi because everything had already been arranged and paid for.
For the first time in my life, I was having a view of how it feels to be labeled ‘disabled’. I was amazed at the privileges I received due to my disability while traveling abroad. Starting from Islamabad airport where I had a wheelchair with an attendant
to take me around, to the separate cues for the people with disabilities, and finally the ramp and lift that was provided for the wheelchair to be lifted to the plane. All these facilities were provided with no extra cost.
In the five star hotel in Abu Dhabi where I stayed, I was provided with an attendant to take my wheelchair around the hotel, and also every time I had to move from my room on the nineteenth floor to the third floor for the breakfast, the attendant would arrive with one phone-call, and take me there. (I’ll ask my ‘foreign’ readers to bear with me, as in Pakistan such things are not seen.)
In the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, there were ramps and arrangements everywhere for anyone with disabilities.
I realized, countries are ‘developed’ because they have developed the quality of catering for the needs of the under privileged, special and disabled people.
On my recent visit to USA, I noticed how the door handles or place for pressing the door open are designed to be reached from a person sitting on a wheelchair. I saw that there were handicapped and disabled people moving independently around the city. Lifts, ramps and facilities are provided for the disabled to move around without any inhibitions.
Here is a society and culture which has done its homework of taking care of the disabled, while we are a society who are so backward in this field. It is time we learnt from them, and did our bit. – Please do not give me that crap about not being able to ‘afford’ it. Just a couple of those bullet proof cars for the big shots less, would change the lives of these disabled people!
It is the same in schools in the USA, where lifts and ramps are provided so that disabled young students can study in a ‘normal’ school. My friend Asma, who lives near my home in Islamabad, is living a very difficult life today due to lack of such facilities in Pakistan. Her husband lives in Islamabad, because he takes care of his mother. While Asma had to take an apartment in Chicago to let her disabled daughter get treatment, and not let her studies get interrupted. There, students with any disability can continue with their studies, as there are such facilities provided in almost every school.
The state owned school in Seattle usually ask parents to pitch in with ‘donations’ and what not, as they can’t ‘afford’ small privileges, however, they have provided the ‘basic’ privilege of facilities for disabled students. Even if there is only one or two disabled students to benefit from these facilities it is worth the effort.
In Islamabad, I had a charming student named Azeema who had no hands or feet, she had to be lifted from her car, and then over the steps every day. Naturally, in our country we have plenty of help (God bless them.) But then a person becomes an object of pity – which is not the right thing – for the individual. A person has to be able to live with grace and dignity. We need to provide that opportunity for all those who are very special in our communities and in our lives.
“What can I do?” is a question you may ask.
- Well, when you are building your own house, make sure you make provision for a ramp at the entrance for a wheelchair.
- Even if you bought a ready-made house, you can have one built for a nominal cost.
- The size of door openings in all rooms should have space for a wheelchair.
- All shops designed in buildings must have a facility for a ramp and lift. The door handles can be placed at an easier height for them.
- Every city, village and community of Pakistan needs many more institutions for disabled persons and for rehabilitation. Parents and caretakers, lose heart because the distances are so far to travel regularly.
- We need more coaching centers for training of physiotherapists and other specialists in this field.
Every city in Pakistan, can easily provide these facilities if one thinks about it.
There is a great power of Intention. Once we all start realizing that it is our obligation to provide and facilitate the disabled in our societies only then we can improve as a country.
Let me share a very powerful dialog in an Indian movie, “Arth”: ‘a deaf and dumb person is one, who even when he screams, no one can hear him.’
Let us start ‘hearing’ the ‘screams’ of the disabled. In fact, they should not have to ‘scream’ to be heard. We should care for them so much that they shouldn’t have the need to scream.
Stay blessed my dear reader, 🙂