Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Together we can

I am afraid I am going to do some `blowing my own trumpet', but all in a good cause, as I hope to try and convince you of. I want to talk of the saga, which began many years ago and is an ongoing one, of (i) my convincing the directors of my institute to render our institute accessible for wheel-chair users, and (ii) getting them to let us use the institute infrastructure to conduct even non-scientific events where many such people with disabilities might be expected to participate.

It helped that I was a senior Professor, faily deeply entrnched here when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and that the then Director was a fellow mathematician (Balu) whose usual reaction to suggestions was `why not' and not `why' - besides being a colleague of many years' standing with whom one could be casual and `take liberties with'. So I could say `if you want me to teach, you should make it possible for me to get to the classroom' and thus began a long series of `demands' for enabling me to be functional and contribute my academic mite to the institute. And I started publicising (for instance, see my post in this blog) to the world how Balu's sensitivity (I'd like to think `sense', instead) was slowly transforming this campus to a heaven on earth for a wheel-chair user. At one point, when there was pressure from his Governmental funding bosses to have Hindi classes for every one, I got away with the argument that we should also have Indian sign language classes so people could help a potential visitor or student with hearing impairment! Although he gave in, I could see that one should not push a good thing too far by making abstract demands, rather than practical ones which I could benefit from. I am sure that if there had been a member of the institute with vision impairment, we could have insisted on - and implemented - adequate braille signage and tactile tiling. Many were the cases where the registrar Vishnu Prasad took an active lead, such as (i) the acquisition of a device which would enable a person on a wheelchair to get on to the dais in our auditorium, (ii) when a disabled-friendly toilet was finally built in our institute, (iii) a spacious elevator materialised in our guest house, with recorded announcements at each halt of the elevator, (iv) designing of additions to the guest house/hostel with some awareness of universal design, ... Ultimate proof that this sensitivity had penetrated quite deep came when we were all being shown around a new wing that had been added, after it had been formally been opened with cutting of ribbons by the Chairman of our academic council. I had not seen this wing from up close till then since it had been quite inaccessible when the construction was ongoing. At the start of the tour, we had been shown the rather well-designed and spacious toilet discussed in (ii) above. Halfway down the corridor, there were a couple of toilets which could only be accessed after climbing down a step. The Chairman swung around on me and said Sunder, how could you allow Balu to get away with this?

Anyway my point is that once all this had been achieved, it was not very difficult to convince Balu to let me organise events like MS day at IMSc. I could see even the administration getting into the right mind-set and often even making suggestions for ways of rendering hitherto inaccessible places accessible. After that long preamble, let me get to the point of this post. Some days back, I received a request from my friend (and one of the live-wires of DRA) Vaishnavi to `like' her new page `Togetherecan' on Facebook. I promptly did the effortless `token like', but then got to thinking how IMSc has been an outstanding example of this `Together we can' ideology. When people have an open mind and a willingness to include everybody in the very act of living and working together, there is really no limit to what we can achieve together. I'll conclude with the latest instance of such sensitivity.

Balu's term as director has come to an end and a younger and equally sensitive and unassuming colleague (this time, a theoetical computer scientist called Arvind) is now `acting director' until the powers that be formally anoint the next director. (If they had any sense, they would not look any further, as I'll try and convince you.) A few weeks ago, Meenakshi, another friend of mine (and comrade in DRA (our so-called `Disability Rights Alliance') who runs an NGO called Equals, wrote to me saying We are planning to host a series of Lectures on various social issues for persons with disabilities. The lectures are planned on the second Saturday from 10 am to 12.30 pm every month. We envisage that these lectures will act as a link between the disability movement and other social movements. All social issues impact persons with disability on an equal basis with others. It is also important that the key players in other social movements understand the issues of persons with disabilities and so their demands will also be responsive to the issues that confront persons with disabilities. And she went on to say It will be extremely useful if the Institute of Mathematical Sciences supports us by providing us a lecture hall with an LCD projector, that can hold a maximum of 35 to 40 people. The primary objective of choosing the Institute is due to its infrastructural accessibility for use by persons with disability. Arvind promptly replied that we may have a certain hall (123) for the date of the first meeting, when Amba, yet another female DRA comrade, who is quite a bit of a legal beagle educated us on `sexual harrassment in the work-place'.

Then Meanakshi asked me `what about the venue for subsequent meetings'. So I pointed out to Arvind that he had not read the entire letter from Meenakshi, where she had requested the facility for the same time on the second saturday of each month. He replied that the administration had indicated that this every month requirement  might impose constraints for the support staff as many events - sometimes as many as three (as on the day of Amba's lecture) - were held during week-ends; so he said `can't you guys spread this over some other institutes as well?' And I told him that at the last meeting when Amba spoke, there were more than ten people on wheelchairs in the audience, and that NO institute in India (other than those that had been specifically designed for people with disabilities) was accessible for such an audience. I also pointed that all we were asking for was a lecture hall with projection facilities, without any frills like coffee/snacks/lunch, etc. and that literally no demands were being made of the institute other than hall, computer and screen. Arvind's immediate reaction was: `I had not realised all this; I'll talk to the office and get back to you'. Sure enough, within the hour, there was an email from him, addressed to me and relevant members of the administration, saying: Approval is accorded for using Hall 123 with Projector Facilities on all second Saturday (May 2015 - March 2016) from 10.00 am to 12.30 pm. It may be noted that Prof. Sunder has agreed that this event may be cancelled if some academic event at the Institute requires the use of Hall 123 on a 2nd Saturday - Arvind

So I repeat: the bottom line is Together we can! All it requires is some sensitivity and desire for including people of all sorts!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Inanity and cluelessness on the meaning of sensitivity

Last night, I received a phone call from my cousin (who has been a frequent reader of my blog) and she told me there was something on TV about persons with disabilities, and that I might want to see it. When she told me it was on NDTV, I should have wondered if it would be worth dropping the proof-reading marathon I need to finish within the next week or so - but some people need to be told the same revolting thing ad nauseum before it gets past their thick cranium.

The `something on TV' had a bright title like `it's your choice' and was a grotesque parody, presented by Prannoy Roy, of a show called `Just for Laughs'. In the Hollywood slapstick version, a typical example would feature, for example, a traffic cop stopping somebody for a (falsely) alleged `parking violation' and falling asleep every few seconds during the process of giving the ticket for the violation; and after the motorist got increasingly visibly irritated, somebody would point out the camera getting all this down for a future episode for the show. That is harmless fun.

But what Prannoy Roy doled out made you want to rush out and throw up. The aim of the show was to apparently convince the viewer that the populace of our cities like Delhi and Kolkata are sensitive about the needs of the disabled, and speak up when they perceive insensitivity in this regard, and to exhort the viewer to similarly speak up when observing anything that is not quite right. There were a series of `episodes of the following genre:

A person with cerebral palsy and his fiancee are seated at a restaurant in Delhi, when a party of two young men and a woman come to occupy a nearby table. Soon we hear the woman from the trio say `This is disgusting; why do they allow such people to come out, and to places like this'. She and her companions keep making remarks at least as noxious - and do so loudly enough to have their views heard by anybody within twenty feet. The camera then  pans on the faces of some of the other clientele, who look inceasingly disgusted, until some of them walk up to inform the trio of some home truths such as `they are also people after all', and `imagine if you had a brother like that'. After such scintillating conversation drags on more than long enough - `show some sympathy' - `but it's so disgusting-ha' - back and forth between the good guys and the bad, and more people join the ranks of the good guys, out walks the cameramen and a disembodied voice in the background (guess whose) reveals the truth that the trio as well as some of the `good guys' who initially rose to the defense of the `almost people' were employees of NDTV, and asks the viewer to revel in the manner in which the other good people of Delhi spoke out their minds, thus displaying that Delhi stood up for its disabled people. (sic).

Revolting as this was to watch, the first episode I saw was what really got my goat. For this episode, NDTV had got Abha Khetarpal, a well-known spokesperson for the need for inclusivity, barrier-free environments, ...., to agree to act as the person manning the counter of a large supermarket-style store, where bills are rung up. In this episode, an abrasive man, whom everybody waould love to see fall down and break his teeth, walks up and demands that Abha finish her task quickly, `as his car is waiting'. After  he makes enough impatient and insensitive statements, two nearby customers (whose mounting displeasure the cameras have been hopping back and forth to show) come up to Abha's defense, to be soon joined by other good samaritans, before it is time for the cameramen to appear and the same old sermon dished out to the hapless viewer.

For crying out loud, you don't have to show a blind person being bashed about before realising that they are also people, and that we should strive for an inclusive society. What really annoyed me was the trivialising of Abha to nothing but a `poor wheelchair-user to be pitied', never mind the fact that here was an accomplished (see my post in this blog) woman who has more to her than being a subject to be tragically stereotyped. I would have been more appreciative of NDTV's (token) sensitivity towards people with disability, if there had been a series of episodes on the sort of handicaps overcome by determined achievers among people with disabilities (like Abha Khetarpal, Shivani Gupta, Hema Iyengar, Rajiv Rajan, ...) and give sermons asking people to (i) not park their cars and bikes on pavements, or (ii) not to arrange `functions' in buildings without ramps where you invite wheel-chair users to `receive an award' after somehow having had navigate flights of steps! Get real, Prannoy, if you really want to sensitise your viewing public (rather than gain cheap `brownie points' for NDTV), then talk to people like Vaishnavi Jayakumar (co-founder of the Banyan) who can instantly reel off half a dozen more meaningful scenarios to use your expensive cameras for.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Inclusivity - thy name is not India

Other countries are more subtle about keeping out people with locomotor disabilities. They make sure there are no ramps and a flight of steps is the only way to get in; so if you are on a wheel-chair, tough luck! Here, though, there are places where ramps are provided, but at ridiculous gradients. (If there are ten steps, just knock off a small portion width-wise and make that part into a ramp.) Even with my power-driven wheel-chair, I can't dream of making it; the users of manual wheel-chairs can just forget about it. But India is a league apart. We Indians with disabilities can proudly lay claim to having faced the following forms of discrimination:

  1. The government, in its hurry to rush through a `Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill' which was riddled with flaws and violations of the UNCRPD, initiates a `lathi-charge' on a group of blind people who were peacefully protesting the attempts to pass the bill in a hurry. 
  2. Pilots of private airlines did not want to take an unescorted passenger with cerebral palsy, never mind that she was going to lecture at a conference she had been invited to. (See here.).
  3. Night-clubs in Mumbai blatantly keeps out a disabled person (See here.)
  4. Restaurants in Delhi deny entry of a guest in a wheelchair, even using some force to stop him from trying to enter the place (See here.).

Let us see how the authorities have reacted to these acts of brazen discrimination:

  1. The police reaction is best described  here and here 
  2.  "I have taken suo moto cognisance of the matter and issued notices to Spicejet and DGCA directing them to explain within 30 days as to what action they have taken to compensate Jeeja Ghosh (the victim) and also to prevent recurrence of such incidents," said Chief Disabilities Commissioner PK Pincha. See here
  3. The DNA of 17/01/14 says this about the incident: Legal experts have opined that the club administration had committed a blunder  by denying entry to Chandran. Advocate Jamshed Mistry said, “A night club is supposed to be a public place for  amusement. There is no question of stopping someone on the ground  of being on a wheelchair. When his (Chandran) friends had booked a table and had paid for  his entry, then the club had no rights to stop him. It was wrong on the part of the staff  to suggest that they lift him. If Chandran wants, he can lodge a complaint with the office  of the chief commissioner for persons with disabilities against the discrimination  meted out to him.” 
  4. Govt. of Delhi has found Keya, DLF Promenade, guilty of Disability Discrimination in its inquiry! See here.

As Stevie Wonder says in one of his militant songs You haven't done nothing!

Some of my activist friends on Facebook wanted to know what matter of penalty should be meted out to Keya and such offenders. Here are some suggestions that could go a long way in sensitising people towards PWD:

  • Have their entire establishment undergo an audit by access specialists such as Shivani Gupta and Anjlee Agarwal.
  • Ensure that they hire a minimum number of PWD on a regular basis
  • Have their front-office staff undergo a sensitisation programme

And finally, as access specialists like Shivani and Anjlee are too few and far between, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment should arrange for such experts to help design and conduct sessions where architects and others could be trained into transforming exclusive environments into inclusive ones based on principles of universal design, who in turn could educate others and start on the arduous journey towards making ours a barrier-free and inclusive environment that does not disable people.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Just as if we had never done this before

For several months now, members of my group have been asked to perform audits of the `model roads' where the Chennai Corporation has been trying to render the pavements usable fo pedestrians: Loyola College Road, Besant Nagar 2nd Main Road, Conran Smith Road, Police Commissioner's Office Road, Pantheon Road, SIET College Road, ... Of late, we have been concentrating on this last road, officially called K.B. Dasan Road. We had a big slogan-shouting and human chain event on it on December 3rd, the World Disabled Day. And we told people there we will come again periodically, especially including the 3rd of the next month, etc., to see if all our `sensitising` exercises had borne any fruit at all.

We went there again last week-end, armed with our hand-outs, drafts of model signs indicating that vehicles parked on the pavements would be towed away, etc., people from the Corporation Office located on that road itself and traffic police with loudspeakers trying to announce that pavements are meant for pedestrians and should be cleared. We had even informed friends in the Press so that our efforts would be publicised. And indeed our Press friends did not disappoint, as evidenced by this report next morning in `The Hindu'.

But there the good news ended. The pavements looked exactly the same as they had on December 2nd. Here is a quick run-through of some photographs documenting our experience that morning. As we started moving east from the SIET College gate, we ran into Domino's Pizza with its fleet of two-wheelers blocking the pavement.

And poor Smitha couldn't even get past these mopeds by getting down to the road, risking life and limb at the possible harm from speeding vehicles whizzing by; reason: the omnipresent two-wheeler parked in the way by  yet another inconsiderate driver whose mind must be where the `sun don't shine'.

 By now, about 150 minutes past the time we had agreed on meeting, some traffic police had come and we asked them to follow or come along with us so they could see our problems. The first one was caused by the wiring for the lamp-posts in a bright orange plastic tube that uncompromisingly guarded the pavement.

Then there was this example

to show that there could also be drivers of four-wheelers and bicycles with their minds up in that same dark place. And given the various marginalised sections of Indian cities, there are many who have to set up shop

on the pavements simply because they have very little option.

But where I draw a line is at the not quite-so-marginalised using the pavements as extensions

of their parking lots or show-windows. I will be glad to offer 10 to 1 odds on this being exactly the same scenario you will find a week later at this Ford Service Station or at the Sangeetha restaurant on the opposite side of the road which I did not have the cool to photograph because I was so mad at the attitude of the owners of cars and two-wheelers which were cavalierly parked infront of the restaurant and too intent on giving them a piece of my mind. Nor is it much more comforting when a hospital, which should be concerned with such things as being able to move patients in stretchers or wheelchairs, exhibits this behaviour at which all poor Smitha can do is scratch her head in despair:

Never mind, next month, I'll get enough photographs - including Sangeetha, for sure - and then present our case to the traffic police. I am convinced that with our total lack of civic sense, nothing will change unless people are threatened by police levying hefty fines or towing away their vehicles. With high probability, these same cars and two-wheelers will be continuing in their merry antisocial ways, blocking these same spots!

Sunday, 8 February 2015

A nation of effing rapists

We can proudly boast of being the nation with the highest number of men indulging in unnatural acts of brutal violence. Here is what the Times of India says of the most recent manifestation of this depravity:

Unidentified men raped and brutalized a 28-year-old mentally-challenged woman before killing her at Bahu Akbarpur in Haryana's Rohtak district on Sunday last.

The woman's body was found without key organs on Wednesday along with sticks, stones and condoms stuffed into her private parts three days after she went missing.

The brutality is throwback to the Delhi's Nirbhaya case, which shocked the country and led to radical changes in laws to end crimes against women.

Police said the Rohtak woman's body was decomposing when autopsy was conducted on it at Pandit Bhagwat Dayal Sharma Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) in Rohtak on Thursday.

PGIMS's forensic medicines department head Dr S K Dhatterwal said he has supervised or conducted around 30,000 autopsies, but has never seen such brutality in his 29-year career.

He said two stones were inserted into the slain woman's anus. "Her face was eaten by animals; her lungs and heart were found missing. Also, her skull had fractured and there were injury marks on both her thighs and chest.''

Doctors took five hours to conduct the autopsy. "There was a 16cm long and 4cm wide stick-like article in her vagina. We presume that a longer stick was used and it may have broken inside her. We also found a number of condoms in her vagina," said Dhatterwal.

Police said the woman belonged to Nepal's Vardia district and had been under treatment in Haldwani. She had come to Rohtak a few months back to visit her sister, who works as a domestic help in the city.

A few days before this, the Bangalore newspapers carried a srory of how a man had taken a three year old girl into a shed, raped her and then killed her there before very calmly walking out. There are even blurred photographs showing him leading the unsuspecting and innocent child by the hand, and then walking out alone. Not long before that, Bangalore reported instances of teachers having raped students inside the school premises on several occasions.

In fact, it is a safe bet that if you picked a random paper from a random Indian city, you would be sure to find a story of such bestiality, with varying levels of details of the horror. I have quoted the TOI report verbatim, and talked about the fate of girl children in Bangalore, to convey the scale of desperation and depravity of these monsters: from a mentally ill woman to a defenseless child, they pick their victims from all strata of women.

In just 75 years, the land has ignominously slid from from the zenith of espousing non-violence as a form of freedom fighting to the nadir of laying claim to being a land of bestial effing rapists.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Am I being heard?

A month and a half back, I wrote on my ongoing woes with domestic air travel. Since I had specifically named Jet Airways in that post, I decided to write to their customer care email address and give them a link to my blog-post. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a phone call from a lady in Mumbai asking if there was any way she might be able to help. I told her that I wanted to meet someone senior in the organisation who might be able to give me some piece of paper regarding the entitlements of a person traveling with a personal wheelchair, so that I would not need to go through the same ridiculous objections again and again. As she was in Mumbai and I was in Chennai, she asked somebody in their Chennai office to get in touch with me. When that Chennai contact called me, and I said I wanted to meet as senior a person as possible in Jet Airways, she wanted to know why. When I expressed a desire to carry a piece of paper signed by such an authority as to precisely what were the entitlements of a person with disability traveling with his personal wheelchair, she told me that such a document could not be given, but that I could inform her whenever I planned on flying on their airline.

I flew from Chennai to Bangalore a few days ago on Jet Airways, and was surprised to receive an email from them asking me to tell them about my experience of the flight I had just taken. I thought I might as well put that up on my blog, too! The first false note was struck at check-in when the lady at the counter told us our baggage was overweight - because she included the weight of my wheelchair which had to be checked in. After the same discussion we have had innumerable times at innumerable aiports, we were allowed to conince her that airlines are obliged to transport such assistive devices at no extra cost to the passenger. The next hiccup involved the seats we were allotted. There were two passengers who had needed to be brought in a wheelchair to the craft; and both of us were seated in row 15 - bang in the middle of the plane, so that we had to walk some amount till we could get to our seat. I do not know why this was necessary, since I have been seated in the second row from the back in the past. Is it so hard to have a uniformly applied, and sensitively designed set of practices which would minimise the hardships/inconveniences that persons with disability have to face when they fly?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Keep running to stay in the same place

I was struck by the quite amazing similarity between different aspects of my life since I was diagnosed with multiple slerosis a dozen years ago. Thus, consider the following list, and the parallels between them that I wish to illustrate:

(a) the actual onset of the disease and my ongoing attempts ever since, to cope with it;
(b) the sensitivity of people/organisations towards people with disabilities and the attempts of a group of people whom I have joined in continually ongoing efforts to make a dent in centuries of indifference;
(c) the insensitivity and power-mongering among `leaders of the disability sector'  and their (non-) reactions to attempts at raising levels of inclusivity;
(d) the lethargy of government officials allegedly in charge of `social justice and empowerment',  their reactions to attempts at raising levels of inclusivity, and their total lack of comprehension of what they are supposed to be doing.

And now for the `parallels':

(a) The ability levels of my limbs, particularly the left leg and left hand, have been steadily declining (although I am happy to note that the rate of detioration is not as rapid as it might have been). I have been undergoing physiotherapy for about an hour, thrice a week, for the last 12 years, and trying to save the other days of the week as allowance for flagging energy levels and feeling fatigued almost all the time. And it is as if I never did anything: there is NO improvement in my condition. The lesson seems to be: I must do all those things to at least maintain the status quo, unpleasant as it may be.

(b) There is total lack of sensitivity or awareness of the general public as far as the need for an inclusive and barrier-free environment which could facilitate independent living of people who might be elderly or have some manner of disability. The hurry to take care of one's own needs always eclipses the rights of the fellow-man. Thus, one always sees people parking their cars or motor-cycles in a manner which is bound to inconvenience others. So much so that the City Corporation of Chennai has taken it upon itself to provide wider footpaths with cut-aways which will enable a wheel-chair user, for instance, to (a) use the pavement, and (b) get off from the pavement and down to the road, and vice versa. A group of my friends, calling themselvs the Disability Rights Alliance (DRA), has been roped in by the Corporation to do `audits' of the pavements where they have been working. Several week-ends, we have gone with groups of volunteers, with our wheelchairs and crutches and white canes(*), distributing pamphlets to residences and retail outlets, asking them to ask their visitors/clients to not use these ramps to get their cars or motor-cycles onto the pavements and park them right across the pavements. Every week-end, it is the same scene and same story: people say `first you ask all the others to remove their vehicles; then I'll remove mine' or `I'm parking it for just two minutes; then I'll take it away'. It is as if the past week-ends' exercises had not taken place at all!

((*) In order to counter the oft-repeated and ridiculous questions such as `but how many wheel-chair users do you see?', we have to show we exist - not that it does a fat lot of good!)

(c) I have been crying myself hoarse in this blog about attempts to `pass the RPWD Bill of 2014'. The point is that there are no laws `with teeth' concerning rights of PWD in India, in spite of our having been one of the first signatories of the UNCRPD, and an attempt was made, after secret negotiations between the `leaders' of some Disability Rights Groups in Delhi and the leaders of the Congress party in the dying days of its last tenure of power in Delhi, to hurriedly push through some legislation on a horribly mangled Indianised adaption of the UNCRPD. Fortunately these secret and self-serving dealings were discovered just in time and a big hue-and-cry was made by many right thinking Disability Groups to have this almost-born Bill handed over to a Standing Committee for review after the elections were over and the new Government took over. Not long ago, we heard that this Standing Committee was seeking submissions from interested parties regarding this bill. You can be sure the DRA and many of its members sent in such submissions, with pleas that they be allowed to make personal submissions before the Committee took any decisions. About a month ago, we heard that the Standing Committee was going to conduct its hearings, and heard two days later that these hearings had taken place; upon inquiry one finds out that the people invited to present their views were the same `leaders' from Delhi who had failed in their first attempt to push through their butchered version of the UNCRPD, and only something like two of 15 people invited for those hearings were from outside Delhi! After DRA again made some noises on sicial media, etc., we were told that the Standing Committee would be `touring around India' soliciting views of interested parties from other cities such as Chennai. And the latest news is that the Standing Committee will conduct a meeting in Chennai on Jan 29th, possibly also visit Bangalore (according to information apparently from Javed Abidi, one of the `leaders' in Delhi earlier alluded to, who always seems to be privy to such information) and have a `round table meeting' in Delhi on Jan 31st to finalise the findings. This ridiculous lip service to democratic functioning, and tendency to finally letting only Javed and his henchmen in Delhi decide the running of all matters pertaining to PWD, is further proof of the utter irrelevance of well-meaning efforts of other Groups like DRA fighting for Disability Rights.

(d) One reads reports in the newspapers with sickening regularity of the indignities that airlines subject PWD to - from deplaning a passenger with cerebral palsy who had already completed boarding formalities only because the pilot took one look at her and decided that she was a threat to the security of `his passengers', to Air India misplacing the wheelchair that had been checked in by a paraplegic, and not make alternative arrangements for her until some 55 hours after having deposited the poor passenger on foreign soil and letting her try and come up with make-shift solutions and manging on her own without her wheelchair. The DGCA has done precious little to improve the plight of PWD in Civil Aviation. The Ministry of `Social Justice' demands the several million PWD of the land to get a certificate to prove their disability in order to avail of such minimal concessions as they may be entitled to - the only problem is that these certificates can only be obtained in specific government offices which are all notoriously inaccessible - for example, in a third floor office in a building without elevators. Precious little has been done to even utilise such funds as they have been allotted to enforce the laws of the land in making public spaces and facilities accessible and barrier-free.

Bottom line: despite your most well-meaning efforts, you are dealt placebos with great fanfare, while the disease corrodes the innards.