India doesn't lack the money, the knowledge, the infrastructure or the power. What it lacks is a VISION. A vision to see that everyone enjoys the RIGHT TO EQUALITY and the most basic right - RIGHT TO LIFE with DIGNITY. Though it is written in our Constitution, it is not engraved in our minds. What our mind speaks is the language of power and the language of 'ignorance is bliss’. Is Disability really an impairment of the body or the impairment of the society to be inclusive of them?
This is the question that 15 physically challenged children from Guwahati had to face when they reached Guwahati Railway Station on 18th November, 2012. They had been invited to perform a play – Buddhuram– at the Jashne Bachpan Festival, 2012 organised by the National School of Drama in New Delhi on 20th November, 2012. Part of the troupe, with sparkles in their eyes and an excitement to showcase their ‘ability’ in the midst of mindless thoughts of disability, reached the station only to have let down that enthusiasm. Guwahati Railway Station (classified as Grade A) did not have the basic facilities to meet the needs of these 15 children who had a tough time reaching, boarding and travelling in Sampark Kranti Express to Delhi.
Shishu Sarothi, a city-based centre for rehabilitation and training for multiple disability, who accompanied the children found that the station was not disabled friendly with no lift or ramp and the train parked at the furthest possible platform. They were taken through the route which is used to tow hand carts with luggage to be loaded onto the trains through unmanned tracks. Even after reaching the platform, the questions kept coming – how does one get into the train? Where can they comfortably keep their wheelchairs? How do they use the bathroom which many of us don’t even dare to open? All this is not only inaccessible but unsafe for them in many ways.
This is not just the story of one group of differently abled individuals or one railway station. It is the same story across the country. While the world is advancing at a fast pace, we urge the government to not slow-down in making every place ACCESSIBLE and DISABLED FRIENDLY. The Railway Ministry ought to take steps at the earliest to make railways disabled friendly and to provide infrastructure so that the differently abled can travel with comfort. It’s high time that ‘Inclusive’ is the word to be used in our vocabulary very often!