Recently, a news report said that a differently abled person complained of being embarrassed by airport authorities when she was forced to take off her prosthetic leg and pass it through the luggage scanner along with other passengers’ baggage. She claimed that the incident “brought her to tears”. This sparked off a debate whether Indian society and infrastructure provides a conducive environment for the differently-abled. We spoke to one such gentleman, Jaymin Panchal, who himself is differently-abled, to tell us about his views on the same.
Professionally a content writer and also handling marketing & communication of manufacturing firm; Mr Panchal is Blogger with socio political opinions. He is also a co-founder of EkAurPrayaas – A social platform which assisted Indian Sportspersons to go to London, with the help of social media support
Q. How difficult has it been for you, being a differently-abled person?
Jaymin: Well, being differently abled since birth actually worked in my favour. Many times after lateral accidents or mishaps one has to unlearn so much and relearn to adapt and adjust, in that scenario, you can say, from birth I was given my scope area which I had to adjust and expertise to deliver.
Q. So how was your childhood and even otherwise, did you face any embarrassing or uncomfortable moment?
I would say, everyone would have faced embarrassing or rude behavior in one’s life, similarly I too have faced, when I required genuine help but was turned down or kind of mocked at. However, the positive and compassionate support is so huge since my childhood from my parents to friends to acquaintances and most strangers, these embarrassing moments don’t matter. All because of motivation, especially from my mother and then in school from my principal and then from all friends from very early stage, never made me feel awkward to request help. From cabbies to policemen to even stray strangers, have always been supportive and provided support, whenever I needed, without trampling my dignity.
Q. Do you think India is differently-abled friendly?
Your question is related to infrastructure I guess, in that scenario, currently we need to do a lot more in making infrastructure and other basic necessity disabled friendly. Like in case of public transport or pavements, even in public sanitation, like having public differently abled toilets. As far as people are concerned, majority are differently-abled friendly, many time they are not ill-intentioned, and not aware of specific necessity of differently-abled, and hence minute friction comes, else Indians are for sure differently-abled, I can list down many anecdotes, where people have gone out of their way to support me or make it easy for me (and mind you, not talking of friends, even strangers or acquaintance too).
I am not negating bad apples here, where certain people do get sadistic pleasure in harassing differently abled or mocking; but here we need to understand such jackasses are everywhere and they harass all, today because you are differently abled tomorrow maybe because you are girl or short guy or having black hair or no hair. They need befitting answer as per situation; however all are not bad, as such.
Q. You talk of police and public transport being supportive, mostly we hear them being insensitive, have you faced it ever?
Again going by the majority of my personal experiences, most of strangers, police and public transport people, not only empathized but also helped me. As far as negative experience, yes there are quite a few rude experiences, but that could have been with anyone and they are stray, I would rather stick to positive ones, which exponentially increased my trust on people, I travel in Mumbai which is one of the busiest cities, and I walk with a stick and two prosthetics on either leg; but any part I travel alone and with confidence, less on self, but more on my co-citizens that in time of need, I will have at least one good soul to help me out and I have many experiences of such good people. The main idea is cooperation rather than confrontation. My being differently abled is not my crime, so it’s not crime of my fellow citizen as well. And above all what I liked and loved is my being differently abled has not come in my way either at time of taking brick bats or being appreciated. Engage with the system and administration will help infrastructure and people be more aware and differently-abled friendly.
Q. There are many cases coming of differently-abled persons being treated shabbily, just yesterday there was a story of differently abled women who was asked to get her prosthetics checked, and she felt offended
What is the reason to be offended, I don’t understand, although I don’t know minute details, but as far as procedure goes, all women are taken into a confined cabin, where female security staff does the checking, so same must be the case here, no security staff would have asked the prosthetics to be removed and checked, that to especially of women in public. I myself have gone through this process, where even as male, I was taken to a cabin, where my prosthetics were checked, and it was not even remotely embarrassing or offensive. With so many terror attacks, it is the duty of citizens to support security staff,.
Q. Agreed, but there are other methods of having explosives detected?
I certainly agree, who wouldn’t want easy things, if such a machine is available, which I suppose, avoids me to take of limbs every time at security check. However, there could have been technical glitch or not readily available then a physical check, doesn’t take away dignity of differently-abled person. Security staff is under tremendous pressure on duty, and no one is going to enjoy an artificial limb; that he or she will do this on purpose to harass or offend a person.
Q. Any message to other people like you?
Well we do have our set of special requirements in routine work, which is to be acknowledged without having feeling of inferiority complex. I would say respect and support is a two way street. Seeking privileges beyond one’s necessity should be voluntarily refrained and just as I expect society to understand my special issues to comfort me; I should also be open and ready to understand some problems they are facing. If we want to be recognized for our work or talent or anything beyond; we should be ready to take on the chin any awkward moments rather than being cynical or confronting. Again I repeat, lots more needs to be done infrastructure wise and even as awareness among people to understand gravity of requirement of differently abled person. To finish off, I would end by saying, if the differently-abled want to join the mainstream, avoid victim-hood rather engage with confidence, as I truly believe, we are equal to others.