Saturday, 12 March 2016

Fit any steps design

Throughout the past few `music seasons' in Chennai, I did not go to a single music concert although I am a `patron member' of the Music Academy and get sent a season ticket - for the simple reason of access problems. This year, my sister-in-law was bent on making a change in this self-denial programme. What she did was to find one venue which was accessible to me and my wheelchair. When we drove into the parking lot, I saw the inevitable two steps at the entrance. Even as I started getting hot under the collar, I saw her come with a couple of guys carrying this brilliantly crafted and ingeniously designed ramp,  yet so elementary an idea and easily and economically made. I thought this is the solution India has been waiting for.
The answer to our problems?
You will know why I am getting so excited by something looking so common and simple only when you realise the staggering number of people in India who think an inaccessible place becomes accessible if one puts a plank of wood on a flight of steps - even if it means a gradient of 1:1! I have been stupid enough once to go down down such an incline, and I thought that was curtains for me. Even last week, a colleague (one without any disabilities) told me of such an impossible ramp at a premier research institute in Chennai (not mine, but one I have referred to as a `sister institute' in an old post in this blog. Maybe Pramath, Sundar or Alok can teach some basics of access to the administrators? The internationally accepted standard for ramps is a minimum of 1:12!) While this may not work in an auditorium with a long flight of steps, it is certainly what the doctor ordered for a majority of commercial establishments which typically have anywhere between one and five steps from the pavement to the entrance.

What is attractive about this design is that it allows for custom-made ramps for just about every conceivable design. Even if a place has three steps of respective heights 4,6 and 2 inches, and width 4, 5 and 2 inches, the design allows for a make-shift ramp with a gradient of 1:12 (thus the base can be (4+6+2)x12 = 144 inches, i.e., 12 ft. wide) and removed immediately after use - rather than a base of 4+5+2 = 11 inches, whisch would not stick out much but could result in broken bones and expensive lawsuits!

On a recent visit to IIT Kanpur where I had been invited to give a talk, I had told my host and friend of more than 30 years now that when I had stayed,  long ago, in their Visitors House (or VH, as it is called by IIT-K folk), I had had a painful fall (fortunately without any long term ill-effects) which could have been avoided if there had been a few shrewdly placed grab-bars; and in response to my request, she arranged for the installing of such bars! But the ramp at the entrance to the VH was of the plank-on-step kind of design. I noticed and pointed out a couple of other places (such as in their auditorium) where there were a few steps which hindered smooth passage of my - indeed any - wheelchair. In response to her query on possible solutions, I showed her this design, and she immediately saw the merits and got a copy of the above photograph and sent it to the person in charge of the appropriate department, who promptly came up to me at breakfast next day to say these shortcomings would be remedied before my next visit to IIT-K.

If only our sister institutes in Chennai would respond as pro-actively!

PS: Can i be so impudent as to suggest to the MSJE that this be considered as (a) a possibility of creating employment for PwD who have some carpentry skills, and (b) make it mandatory on public private buildings to make their frontages measured and a job entrusted with qualified carpenters, preferably as in (a) above, and make themselves accessible at fairly minimal costs?

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A beautiful place with ugly values

I am going to indulge in yet another bout of New Zealand bashing. Earlier, I had posted two accounts of how, flying completely against all available evidence, the medical assessors of that country had denied me a visitor visa for two weeks solely on the grounds that I had multiple sclerosis and was likely to be a strain on their medical services and finances - in spite of my assuring them that I would have insurance and even if the insurance company refused to foot the bill for pre-existing conditions, I had provided them enough evidence of solvency to show that I could pay for whatever damages were incurred!

And today, I find (on facebook) that the medical assessors have been up to their tricks yet again - this time to deny a residency status to a young son of a mathematician, who has already been on the faculty of the University of Auckland for some four years, because the son had autism! Never mind that the father was a respected member of the math dept there and had even been recipient of a handsome grant! The Vice- Chancellor of the university is quoted by The Guardian as saying he was was “an example of the outstanding young academics we must have at the University of Auckland if we are to maintain our premier world ranking”. Meanwhile, this mathematician reportedly had the good sense to say “I do not see myself raising my children in a country that does not respect the UN convention on human rights.” According to the president of the New Zealand Mathematics Society,  the departure of “an outstanding mathematician”  would be “a great loss for us and New Zealand”.

And this country is supposed to have been a signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability since early 2007! Do such grandiose commitments to a better tomorrow have no meaning? Should there not be a penalty levied on such obvious defaulters? The Guardian article cited above goes on, by the way, to say `In the year 2014/2015, Immigration New Zealand declined 116 residency applications solely on medical grounds. 
The disability rights commissioner, Paul Gibson, was not available for comment.' (I wonder how many of those 116 were persons with some manner of disability!)

This country seems to be blessed with a natural beauty that makes you go `Ooh' and `Aah'; but cursed with a Government whose human values make you go `sick' and `yecch'.

The Indian Government, also a signatory to the UNCRPD, is also threatening to go the Kiwi way by removing diseases like MS and Autism from the ambit of the `India-specific' clone of the UNCRPD Bill (called the RPDB) about which, also, I have bored to death the long suffering reader of this blog. I can only pray that my country, which claims centuries of a humanitarian civilisation, retains its humanity!

Saturday, 30 January 2016

We can work

New developments are on to bring into law the contentious `Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill of 2014' (henceforth RPDB), which is an attempted India-specific re-formulation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). In 2014 (the dying days of the Congress rule under Manmohan Singh), these efforts took various forms (some even resulting in a lathi-charge on peacefully protesting group of blind people). Fortunately many groups in the `sector' spotted and pointed out various potential pitfalls in the proposed RPDB, and more importantly, unacceptable deviations from and incompatibility with the UNCRPD, and the bill was forwarded to a Standing Committee. This latter committee made several recommendations, many laudable, while some fell short of the UNCRPD vision. Notable among these were the thorny question of legal capacity of people with severe disabilities, and the definition of persons with disabilities.

And now efforts are seemingly afoot once again to streamline and pass the RPDB.

While the UNCRPD is a model of inclusivity, the RPDB is a horror of exclusion. The former crisply says Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others while the latter has found some inexplicable way of concluding that there are precisely 19 kinds of disabilities. So if you are an Indian with a disability that is not in this shortlist, you cannot hope for any government subsidies, aids, etc.

It is against the backdrop of these shenanigans that one should try to understand the Pandora's box opened a few days ago by Ms. Maneka Gandhi.  To start with, the press apparently tried to report on Ms. Maneka Gandhi's comments on `the bill not laying criteria for determination of mentally disabled people'. Ms. Gandhi was reported to have said The bill does not differentiate between mentally ill and mentally disturbed peron. But there is a difference between the two. If a person is mentally ill like schezophrenic, how can he be given a job?

And that naturally got various groups `in the disability sector' up in arms. One hard-hitting response in the social media was called #wecanwork, where numerous PwDs (mostly mentally ill) sent in photgraphs of themselves carrying a paper/placard addresseing Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, mentioning their name, the nature of their disability, and details of the work they did. This literally blew up in her face and she made a clarification. She said: The newspaper article is entirely untrue. I do not make silly, loose comments specially when I have been minister for the disabled for 5 years and have made Acts that are in place today as well as having started Alimco etc. What I suggested at a closed door meeting of the ministries was that , instead of a gross mix-up of physically disabled, mentally ill. mentally challenged and diseased - all being lumped under the same category for the 3% reservation, we refine the list so that everyone knows the category in which they can get pensions / jobs. For instance , there is no point putting leprosy with autism. Leprosy is a disease and autism at its extreme level is a disablement. If we put leprosy in the list carelessly then we leave the door open to cancer , liver/kidney failure etc and make the 3% reservation a mockery. Regarding mental illness, I asked them to grade the different forms and see which can be employable and which needs a pension.

Our politicians should read the UN Charter on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (to which we have been signatory for many years now), which unambiguously states:

 (In the section on `Definitions'): “Discrimination on the basis of disability” means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation.

(In the section on General Obligations):  Appropriate authorities shall undertake to ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination of any kind on the basis of disability.

If one wants to know the difference between inclusivity and exclusivity, one only needs to compare the vision enshrined in the previous two paragraphs and the Statements attributed above to Ms. Gandhi. (By the way, Ms. Gandhi, one of your experience should not use politically unacceptable language like minister for the disabled, and persistently refer to a person with schizophrenia as a schizophrenic or a person with a physical disability as physically disabled, etc.

I had also put in my two bits' worth in the `wecanwork' onslaught (even though I was one of the few people whose impairment was not a mental one), and I received a phone call at 16.45 hrs from NDTV asking if I could come to their studio at 1900 hrs for a live recording for NDTV 24x7. As I did not want to let down the sector by missing this opportunity to air our views, I hurriedly got my act together and rushed to the studio (after going in Friday evening peak hour traffic for more than an hour). I tried to find out if the studio was wheelchair accessible. After two people assured me on the phone that this was the case, I went there and reached the building at 18.50. There was a step to enter the building and another step to get to the elevator; and the elevator was too small to take me in my wheelchair. So I had to walk to the elevator and go up, and wait till other people brought up my wheelchair! Why do people always assume everybody can go up just two steps and that this qualifies as `accessible'? I had half a mind to say I can't come up because it is not accessible. Many of my good friends CANNOT CLIMB ONLY TWO STEPS.

Anyway, I go up, and am the only person in front of a camera although the screen shows four or five boxes of pople. The compere of the show starts by saying `the sector' vigorously objected to Ms. Maneka Gandhi's statement on unemployability of schizophrenics (sic), that Ms. Gandhi had denied having said that but had only said something along the lines of the italicised paragraph above, and the compere sought the reactions of `the sector' to this re-formulation; and  she began by soliciting my opinion on this. All I could think of saying then was that the trouble was with the definition of PwD; it could be inclusive as in the UNCRPD, or exclusive as in the RPDB, that the quota system had rules such as  individuals with xyz disability (people with x fingers, y toes and z feet) being only entitled to apply only for pre-determined jobs. I tried to say such ad hoc rules would disallow existence of more than competent contributors to their work such as cosmologist Stephen Hawking or game theorist John Nash (Nobel Laureate with schizophrenia).

But NDTV was true to form. The compere never came back for a second opinion to anybody  other than Javed Abidi, who concluded with the statement that the important thing was that now the job reservation quota had gone up from 3 to 5%. Almost like nobody else said anything else of import to the sector! This wretched quota system, which was `the important final point' commented on by Mr. Abidi, only serves to create schisms in `the sector' making people fight for the peanuts that are being thrown their way, rather than demanding that they be shown the entire menu and choose what they feel confident they can do justice to. Once again, a reading of the UNCRPD, in word and spirit, is called for.

A final note to our media friends: there is more than one respectable disability activist in Delhi; I do not mean any disrespect or offence to Mr. Abidi, but the press might consider occasionally inviting views from `a menu that also includes such wonderful choices as' Dr. Satendra Singh, Abba Khetarpal, Anjlee Agarwal, Shivani Gupta, ... - as well as many more if they care to look beyond Delhi to Bhopal, Mumbai, Bengaluru....! A change of diet never hurt anybody!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Indeed Msed out, and with absolutely no attempt at making it look otherwise

I feel almost naked baring all these details of my personal life to the world. But I am so livid at this moment, probably not unlike a woman who has just been raped! On the one hand, it is not too pleasant having  people coming to me to say they feel bad for you when they can have no conception of what leading a life fighting all the unpleasant consequences of your state (being a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, or battling all the daily implications that a disease like MS imposes on a victim) without the further recent insult that has been added to the injury faced daily, by a totally inhuman attitude. On the other hand, I feel like screaming WTF from the rooftops and shaming the rapist. So let me give a blow-by-blow description of the things leading up to this latest insult - rejection of my application for a visa only because I have MS.

In an earlier blogpost http://differentstrokes-vss.blogspot.in/2015/11/will-it-be-msed-opportunity.html I had said my application for a visa to visit our daughter in New Zealand on our 25th wedding anniversary (in mid-December) was stalled by a statement that the medical assessors normally take 12 weeks to make an assessment of the medical records, which had incidentally been sent to them in late October/early November. Then I was informed on Nov 21st that the medical assessor had sent his initial comments (Applicant has multiple sclerosis with very limited mobility and requires significant carer support), with his reason (The applicant has a physical, intellectual, cognitive and/or sensory incapacity which requires full time care, including care in the community) and opinion (Likely NOT ASH), with ASH standing for acceptable standard of health! I was told, nevertheless, that my application had not been turned down, and I could make counter-comments and give an alternate medical opinion from a reputable doctor.

So I sent a long email accepting the offer to rebut on all three counts (comments, reason and opinion of the medical assessor) as well as providing alternative medical assessment from a reputed doctor. I quote the relevant parts of that email:

As for the MA's opinion regarding shortcomings in my intellectual or cognitive capacity, I should inform you that I am a mathematician of some international repute, as may be seen from my home-page at http://www.imsc.res.in/~sunder/ (maybe you should look up V.S. Sunder in Wikipedia; but that entry is old: I have now written 2 more books and more than 10 more papers since the date of the wiki entry). In fact, since my condition was diagnosed as MS in 2002, I have written four books and thirty-odd papers in research journals, as well as receiveing (one of only 120) Distinguished Alumnus Awards of IIT(Madras) from a total of some 40,000 alumni. Not bad for an intellectually and cognitively impaired dude, eh!

Regarding the comment `very limited mobility and requiring significant carer support', you can see from my passports (and from my home-page) that I have, on invitation, lectured and/or attended conferences in UBC, Vancouver, Canada in 2006, Max Planck Institut, Bonn, Germany in 2007, BIRS, Banff, Canada in 2008, Vanderbilt Univ, USA in 2010, Aberystwyth, Wales, UK in 2012, Berkeley, Calif, USA and The Fields Institute, Toronto, Canada in 2013; inside India, I have been doing almost monthly work-related travel to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Bangalore, ... , always with my wife and care-giver, and have never had any health-related incidents in the past ten years and more that my wife and I could not handle, ourselves, as can be seen from copies of the MRI reports that I gave during my medical tests. In fact, in spite of my planned two-week trip to NZ, I have committed to attending conferences/meetings in (i) Bangalore in the first week of December, (ii) Chandigarh in the first week of January, and (iii) back in Chennai in the second two weeks of January.
Very limited mobility?

 As for the `likely NOT ASH' comment, I had certainly anticipated no trouble with a two-week visit to New Zealand, until I was hit by the reality that being an Indian with MS has necessitated my filling visa application forms and stating that I have MS, and facing this mountain of a bureaucratic hurdle. If I was an American with MS, then I would not have needed to fill a visa form, and no one would have  known that I had MS and was potentially `NOT ASH' until I strolled (or rather wheeled) into NZ!

An attached  scanned and attested copy of a letter from my neurologist  certifies in his concluding paragraph that  I `can travel to New Zealand or any other place'. My doctor is Dr. Krishnamoortthy Srinivas, who's letterhead shows that he is:

(a) an Honorary Member of the American Neurological Association;
(b) an Honorary Member of the American Academy of Neurology;
(c) an Honorary Member of the International  Neuropsychiatry Association; and
(d) Regional Advisor to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Scotland (Tamil Nadu), among other things.

This should certainly qualify as a `medical opinion from a suitably qualified professional' which disputes your original assessment that I am not of an acceptable standard of health', and should go some way towards overriding your MA's verdict. Let me end by saying that I will be very disappointed if this email, with its attachment, do not suffice to let me be issued a visa. In that case, I would be forced to conclude that nobody from India with a condition like MS (not even if he were a Stephen Hawking) would ever be permitted to enter NZ - which would incidentally contravene at least five of the principles (listed below) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, to  which NZ became a signatory on 30th March, 2007!

I ended the email by quoting the UNCRPD exactly as in the earlier bloodspot referred to above.

December came and went, and we consoled our daughter saying that we would, instead, try to come for her graduation. Then I received  a letter saying bluntly that my application for a visa was being turned down because the medical assessor had decided that I was definitely NOT ASH.

The medical assessors of kiwi-land are apparently far more accomplished and decorated than my doctor to see things in the future that he cannot!

Does being signatory to the UNCRPD carry no obligations? I urge the reader (and the Prime Minister and other dignitaries in the NZ Govt) to review the major principles (also listed out in the earlier blogspot) of the UNCRPD and form an opinion.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan)

According to a recent draft of the National Building Code, "it will be mandatory for all airports and railway stations to have toilets accessible to the disabled. However, this is not mandatory for 14 other kinds of public places including office buildings, cinemas, convention halls, theatres, art galleries, libraries, museums, hotels, restaurants, schools and educational institutions". (This building code would seem to say disabled people need not attend movies or theatre, eat out in restaurants, or even worse, need not go to school or college lest they might want to use a toilet or be fortunate enough to find employment in an office, where they might need to use the toilet during working hours!)

Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) proclaims that it is the vision of the Government to have an inclusive society where equal opportunities and access is provided for the growth and development of PWDs to lead productive, safe and dignified lives.

It also proclaims an `Action Plan'  which includes the creation of a Steering Committee and Programme Monitoring Unit with representation of Accessibility Professionals and experts; and such experts working in the disability sector are invited to send their particulars with details of experience to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities or by sending email to mukesh.harvard@gmail.com

If you want to pick a cricket team with a chance of winning anything, do you do so by requesting `experts to send in a bio-data to an appropriate Government Department' or by doing some small homework on who the experts are by asking around? You would find consensus on the best people within a very very short time indeed! If you did that, you would know you have to look no further than Shivani Gupta of AccessAbility or Anjlee Agarwal of Samarthyam, both conveniently located in Delhi. Or if, unlike most decision makers in Delhi, you were prepared to consider the possibility of such expertise existing outside Delhi, you could look up `Disability Rights Alliance' or Bhargav Sundaram of Callidai Motor Works, both in Chennai. (By the way, Bhargav has been sending emails for more than a week now, with serious suggestions to various people in the field trying to put a mechanism in place by which this effort would really be a serious effort rather than just another bit of lip-service; and he seems to have received no official response from Delhi!) If you are really serious about doing what the avowed `Action Plan' above promises, please respond to me. I will give you some email addresses of people to whom this business of accessibility is a very serious matter. You could ask each of them for some names of people doing good work in this area, and you will be surprised at the size of the overlaps of the different lists you will receive.

So in the hope that something clicks, I am posting this in my blog as well as sending an email to the address given above.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Whichche din? Certainly not this month!

The first few days of December have been some of the most nerve-wracking and miserable that it has been my misfortune to live through. The reader of my last post would know I was hoping to go with my wife to New Zealand to be with our daughter for our 25th wedding anniversary, and I was anxiously waiting for the medical assessors of NZ immigration to stop pondering over the weighty matter of the possible implications that giving an Indian with MS a two-week visitor visa might have for the national health or health care facilities and consequently for the national treasury. I had already bought tickets a while ago when they were not prohibitively highly priced, according to which I should have left Chennai not long after midnight on the 8th. When it became clear that I was not going to get an answer one way or the other even on the 4th, I had to cancel our tickets so I wouldn't suffer a heavy loss as a `no show' come flight time on the 8th. That was strike one.

On the other hand, we had come to Bangalore for a conference in Bangalore during the first few days of the month. This had the one positive consequence that we had come away from Chennai when it witnessed the heaviest rains in more than a century and was subjected to unbelievable flooding; roads, railway lines and airport connections to the outside world were all shut down, and the city witnessed  the kind of horror no one would ever want their worst enemy to witness - no power for several days on end, water-logging in streets necessitating rescue teams in dinghys helping to evacuate people from the islands their homes had become, many houses/apartments on the ground floor being inundated with two or three feet deep water.... But the city also witnessed amazing selfless acts day after day to voluntarily help others in distress, and there were no reports of crime of the sort associated to times when there are blackouts. The world heard praises being heaped on the city, and the citizens announced proudly that they were Channaiites! Chennai lost more than 300 lives, a bit more than the fatalities in Paris, and received a minuscule proportion of the bytes the Paris tragedy was showered with by the world media. With further rain forecast for the second week, we have been told to stay in Bangalore for another week and only then come back! Even Chennai airport only started resuming all normal flights on the 7th. So our fond hopes of leaving 7th/8th night for Wellington were stymied by meaningless bureaucratic delays and climate-change induced unprecedented flooding. Strike two!

December 3rd, the International day of Persons with Disabilities, saw another fiasco (this time, a predictable one!) The Prime Minister of India had advertised the inaugration of a grand programme for rendering the country an accessible place for the enormous number of PWD in the country. When I heard about it from my disability activist friends in Delhi, I asked them to check on the accessibility of the venue chosen for this `marquee event'. What I heard from them did little to diminish my fears regarding the true outcome of this scheme announced amid such pomp and glamour. Only the first two rows were accessible to people in wheelchairs, and it was then literallly a case of `devil take the hindmost'. Strike three and you are out!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Will it be an MSed opportunity

Let me lead up to my pitch with a bunch of seemingly unrelated facts:
  • Some time ago, I had clubbed one of my many academic visits to mathematician friends in Sydney with a brief visit to Auckland and Christchurch in New Zealand. My wife really wanted to visit New Zealand, but I had to disappoint her because my monthly take-home paycheck was nowhere near as healthy then as it is today. 
  • My wife and I will be having our 25th wedding anniversary this December.
  • Our daughter (in fact, only child) has been living in Wellington, New Zealand, where she is pursuing a one year programme at the film school there.
  • So I thought `what better way of killing two birds with one stone' than our spending a few weeks around our wedding anniversary with our daughter, driving around some of this beautiful country and seeing as much of it as we can.
  • The missing ingredient to this pot pourri of facts is that unlike my bank balance, I am not as healthy today as I was when I visited New Zealand without my wife. I got Multiple Sclerosis some twelve years ago, as a result of which I have been operating out of a wheelchair throughout the current decade.


Now, let me put all these ingredients together into my mystery story. My wife and I applied for our visas to enter New Zealand. Somewhere in that application form, I had to mention the fact that I had multiple sclerosis. A week later, I received an email from the Immigration New Zealand office in Mumbai, saying I had to submit complete medical requirements through one of their empaneled doctors. So I go and undergo all these tests - incidentally incurring an expense of around 200 NZD. I sent a scanned copy I received from the hospital to the lady in the INZ office in Mumbai who had set the cat among the pigeons in the first place, incidentally asking how much longer it should take for us to obtain our visas. And her answer is that while the medical reports have been sent to the medical assessor, the normal `turnaround time for receiving the assessment' is 12 WEEKS. (And this is in spite of my having submitted copies of a letter from my doctor (at least twice) to the effect that I was capable of going to New Zealand or anywhere, as I was was traveling with my care-giver (wife). And my doctor is an eminent neurologist of international renown, as is apparent from his letter-head!) I told her that my receiving the reports in 12 weeks - which would take us to some time in February! - would be useless for me, iterating that part of the initial reason for this New Zealand idea was to celebrate a 25th wedding anniversary that fell in mid-December with a daughter now working in New Zealand, and requesting that she put in a special request to the medical assessor. Answer:  `the medical assessor does not entertain any requests'.

Being a moderately accomplished mathematician (see my home-page at  http://www.imsc.res.in/~sunder/), I have traveled to numerous countries, more than once in many cases, and have NEVER applied for a visa more than 4 months ahead of the expected date of travel, nor have I ever had a visa application turned down. If this requirement is being imposed on me for no reason other than my MS - which is not even a contagious disease that will threaten the health of people in the vicinity - then it will be a violation of at least five or six of the following principles enunciated in Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (to which convention New Zealand became a signatory on 30 March 2007 according to the Wikipedia):

The principles of the present Convention shall be:

(a) Respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons;

(b) Non-discrimination;

(c) Full and effective participation and inclusion in society;

(d) Respect for difference and acceptance of persons with disabilities as part of human diversity and humanity;

(e) Equality of opportunity;

(f) Accessibility;

(g) Equality between men and women;

(h) Respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities.

I haven't got to this stage of my life by taking things lying down. I still haven't given up hope of being with our daughter on our wedding anniversary: I am hoping that somebody in New Zealand will see this blogpost and decide to do some disability activism and take up cudgels on my behalf.

By the way, the mystery I was alluding to in this story is how it is going to end: will the good guys win or be thwarted by what can best be described as an unwarranted and unnecessary bureaucracy that refuses to look at the facts and do the only possible decent thing under the circumstances. Nothing in the visa form said I would need to take a medical! The form talks only about people wanting to come for six months or more. I only wish to spend a measly two weeks. I will have overseas medical insurance, and in the unlikely event that my `condition' should manifest itself in another episode, and that my insurance will not pay for this pre-existing condition, I have given enough proof of my financial solvency to show that I can pay for whatever expenses are incurred; and nobody will be left with a a destitute and unwell Indian on their hands! Is there no way a person with MS can travel between international borders?