Friday, 13 September 2013

Is there any hope for us ?

My last post was about the heart-warming story of a black kid born in a small town in South Carolina who had been born without either arm, but who grew up like `just another kid', rode around on a specially designed bicycle, then had a regular education as an engineer, bought the car of his dreams, did various necessary modifications, and now drives himself to where he works as an engineer in one of the better racing car outfits, and works by using a computer for all his designs which he does by operating mouse as well as keyboard with his feet. And I concluded that post with the rueful admission that such a success story could only occur in the US and the rhetorical question as to when/whether our society would ever liberate ourselves from our fatalistic shackles and preconceived biases to reach that attitude of inclusivity and eagerness to encourage a spirited young person to overcome adversity and lead an independent and productive life.

In this post, I provide a typical example of such shackles and biases which drives me to the sense of frustration that drives one to write a sentence such as the last one. On the one hand, our courts enacted the People with Disabilities Act in 1995 which promises that

The appropriate Governments and the local authorities shall, within the limits of their economic capacity and development, provide for:

ramps in public building;
adaptation of toilets for wheel chair users;
braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators or lifts;
ramps in hospitals, primary health centres and other medical care and rehabilitation institutions.

On the other hand, The Hindu carried a news item on the travails of a young woman who has been twice refused admission by the University of Madras to a distance education programme leading to an M.Sc Counseling Psychology. And here are the wondrous reasons given for this refusal:
  • The woman is confined to a wheelchair owing to an accident having rendered her a quadriplegic for the past 15 years.
  • The University officials believe she will be unable to attend the contact classes on the thid floor, and that there was no facility for disabled people to attend them.
Talk of brazen shamelessness. First you violate an 18-year-old law by not providing ramps in a building which has, by The Hindu's story, at least three floors. Then you possibly violate another law on the grounds of discrimintion by refusing a disabled person admission because you have already violated the PwD Act of 1995.

I feel particularly miffed because I have been writing, for a litle more than two years now on the issues of accessibility and barrier-free environments, with a personal bias to addressing these problems in educational institutions; and I read of this flagrant violation in the University of my own city!

Surely even a not very smart lawyer must be able to sue the pants off the officials of the University. Any takers? Please!


  1. Well there are many lawyers with disabilities around. Whether or not they are interested is another story