We will not be discriminated against just because we are differently abled !

We will not be discriminated against just because we are differently abled !

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We are not asking for any thing special, just fair treatment and acceptance.

Arunima is a Project for adults with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities. We have been providing day as well as residential services to families for the past 8 years ( since 2011) now and work with 24 adults.

We enrolled about 17 of our service users , whose disability varies across the spectrum, in swimming classes at Varada academy, on 1 May 2019.

We fulfilled all the requirements and more , also disclosing which of our service users have mild epilepsy (as this condition can pose risks in a pool). Parents of the particular girls ( 2 out of the group of 17) also wrote letters to the owner of the swimming academy, taking personal guarantee for their daughters. The swimming sessions started and we were thrilled, especially our service users for whom water is therapeutic!

Within a few days we were told that we had to change our time slots, and that the girls with epilepsy could not go into the pool at all. We were also informed that the slot had to be changed and all had to come in one group because some of their other clients were not comfortable swimming with ‘these people'. I went personally to meet the owner, Mr Vipul Nautiyal, because it is often a lack of awareness that creates these obstacles. The owner was very understanding and I was able to clarify some misconceptions he had ( example: if one person gets a seizure then others around him/ her can also start getting seizures) . I wrote him another letter on behalf of the organisation taking responsibility, agreeing that the girls with epilepsy would go into the kiddy pool till such a time that the pool authorities were comfortable about their going into the big pool. We also sent sufficient staff , and had 1:1 support for those who have epilepsy.

Few days went well and then there were new demands from the academy which we addressed.

It was confusing to see that new issues cropped up regularly from their end, whereas we were complying with all their requirements. It seems now that they were hoping that we would get frustrated by these endless conditions and drop out.

Finally, on Friday, 24th May , the Staff were suddenly told that we had to change our slot again, because of some preparation for competitive swimming groups. I called the owner up and explained that a) we could not just be asked to change Slots again and again and b) going from 12:30-1:30 as they were now asking, would disturb mealtimes and some of our friends are on medication that we need to adhere to time slots for.
He then went on to say that we were being rigid, that people were not willing to swim with them, and that they could not continue to do ‘charity’. While the first point regarding the unwillingness of people to accept them is a clear case of discrimination, the second point about charity was completely absurd as we had paid the full group amount of rs 2k per person per month.

Our intention is not to malign anyone but we see this as discrimination and harassment, the only ‘fault’ of these young people being that they are differently abled. Some people say that we should have our own private pool so that no one raises objections, but that completely defeats the philosophy of inclusion.

We will stand against such separation, and refuse to be bullied into accepting that we do not deserve the same services as other people. We are not asking for any thing special, just fair treatment and acceptance.