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Disabled cry for inclusive action

Shillong, Dec. 3: Nothing about us without us.

This slogan was raised here by the Association of Challenged People, Meghalaya, on the occasion of the World Disability Day, universally commemorated today. It revolved around the theme “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all”.

“Nothing about us without us,” Celine Lawai, a wheelchair-bound girl, said.

“Many a time, the government decides for us without involving us. The people who decide do not know what our actual problems are and the government should, therefore, involve us in solving our problems,” the youngster said.

According to the association, there are at least 32,000 differently-abled people in the state and of these, only 600 are with the association.

Celine also said differently-abled people do not require any compassion. Their only desire is cooperation to create a barrier-free and accessible world by promoting the idea of inclusiveness.

“Please do not pity us. Instead, cooperate with us so that our problems can be minimised,” she said while highlighting the fact that the government buildings, including the state secretariat where decisions are made, are not disabled-friendly.

She also said it would be of great help if a ramp could be placed on the steps of the state secretariat for differently abled people like her.

“This will ensure that I will not require the support of anyone. Remove the barriers and reduce the pain,” she added.

Celine did not spare the district social welfare office for organising dancing and singing competitions on World Disability Day. “We appreciate the holding of such competitions, but at the same time, it is not a day for just singing and dancing. We need action,” she said.

Association president Melip Sangma requested the government to come up with disabled-friendly infrastructure. “As the government has recently created new districts, we want the buildings to be accessible for us too,” Sangma said.

On the education front, Ridahun Khriam, a woman afflicted with locomotor disability, said inclusiveness is yet to take shape. “We have Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan schools where inclusive education is a norm. However, the problem is the lack of trained teachers who can communicate with differently abled children, especially with the ones suffering from hearing impairment,” Khriam said.

She said most of these teachers do not even know sign language, which is supposed to be the only medium of communication with the hearing impaired children.

“Most of the hearing impaired children do not attend the inclusive schools, as there are no trained teachers. We, therefore, require a whole lot of teachers who can fit into such schools,” Khriam said.

She said institutions like Dwar Jingkyrmen, Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre, Montfort School, and Jyoti Sroat are offering a three-month foundation course for teachers who have to impart education in inclusive schools.

“Apart from the basic Indian sign language, research is still on for developing a Meghalaya-specific sign language,” she added.


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