Accessibility, Education, Employment: The Challenges Faced By People with Disabilities

Whether it's schools, workplaces, marketplaces, or public infrastructure, people with disabilities encounter barriers that eventually force them to opt out of opportunities that should be equally accessible to all citizens

Written By: | December 8, 2023 हिन्दी में पढ़े

New Delhi: Daily commuting hassles, difficulty in accessing office buildings or educational institutions, toilets, or a lack of study materials in braille – these are all reasons for people with disabilities opting out of opportunities that should be equally available to them. People with Disabilities (PwDs) often constitute an invisible community in India, pushed to the sidelines as urban spaces remain inaccessible for them. Whether it’s schools, workplaces, marketplaces, or public infrastructure, they encounter barriers that eventually force them to opt out of opportunities that should be equally accessible to all citizens.

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Tiffany Brar, Disability Rights Advocate and Founder of a mobile school for blind students, Jyothirgamaya Foundation, in Thiruvananthapuram, is a prime example of how society treats a person with disability. As the only visually impaired student in her school, Ms Brar felt isolated and faced discrimination by the faculty members. But the tough times she faced became a driving force behind the establishment of her foundation. Detailing the lapses in her school premises,

“To get to the children’s toilet, the infrastructure was so bad. The toilets used to be dirty; we had to step here and there, and there was no one to guide us. So, I faced a couple of challenges.”

According to a 2019 UNESCO report, there are 78.64 lakh children with disabilities in India. The school dropout rate for children with disabilities is as high as 12 per cent and as many as 27 per cent have never been enrolled in any educational institution. Why? Because there are no accessible school buildings to start with. Tiffany Brar’s journey is one such example.

Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), detailed how denial of education leads to other chain of challenges for people with disabilities. He said,

“There are hundreds and hundreds and thousands of examples. The moment people see that your child has a disability, you are denied admission and when you are not educated, where do you get a job? How do you be a part of mainstream society? You continue to remain invisible in education, employment, a family or community life. The core right is accessibility and accessibility does not mean just a ramp. It is beyond that.”

Also Read: Why Accessibility Remains A Roadblock For People With Disabilities

For disability rights advocate and Founder, Nipman Foundation, Nipun Malhotra, a simple thing like using the toilet between meetings would turn into a two hour drive as none of the meeting venues had disabled-friendly toilets, forcing him to return to his own home each time. Today he runs the foundation that offers accessibility solutions to Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), but he got there the hard way.

Talking about the challenges he faced throughout his life, Mr Malhotra said,

“Such discrimination kept happening and what I noticed is that whenever I entered any job interview my identity as a wheelchair user superseded my identity as Nipun Malhotra who has earned these degrees and excelled in extracurricular activities as well. It was just my wheelchair that was being looked at.”

Talking about the job opportunity for people with disabilities, Arman Ali said,

“What harm does it make if I am a corporate and want to hire people with disabilities. If people with disabilities can come and do the job for me, they are adding to my revenue, they are not coming and killing their time; I have to pay their salary, they come and they are adding to my profit. So, what is stopping you from hiring them?”

The global data suggests that people with disabilities, if included, can contribute 3 to 7 per cent to the GDP, and play a crucial role in the economy. The question is can a country move towards development if it overlooks this valuable workforce and their unique perspectives?

Watch: Are Public Spaces Accessible For Disabled Persons In India? 

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