Sanjiv Kumar Bakshi
Hoshiarpur, December 5
Merely making announcements for welfare won’t help. Concrete things need to be done — both by the government and society. The government needs to improve infrastructure mandating both public and private sector to raise Persons with Disability (PwD) friendly infrastructure and more importantly make policies to empower and facilitate them. Society needs a complete change of attitude towards PwDs and people should understand that in PwD the P for Person comes before the D of Disability, says 22-year-old Pratishtha Deveshwar, who is the first wheelchair-bound person from India to have made it to the prestigious Oxford University, while talking to The Tribune over phone from the UK. She is pursuing Masters in Public Policy.
Pratishtha, whose father was a DSP and mother a teacher, met with an accident at the age of 13. She broke her spinal cord and was paralyzed below the chest.
“For a while everything came to a halt. For around six years, I had to stay at home. I wanted to see and enjoy life like my friends, but there were no places, where I could go on my own as there was almost no place which was accessible for wheelchair-bound people. Hoshiarpur was a small town and no shops, restaurants, roads, streets or even pavements were wheelchair friendly. So, I thought of shifting to Delhi, as in big cities, the infrastructure is somehow better, but even then, staring eyes were everywhere watching me pushing myself on my wheelchair. I decided not to stop but spread my wings to take the flight of my dreams,” she said. “People say several kinds of things, they pass comments after seeing PwDs. You have to be thick-skinned to keep your aspirations alive and fulfil those by ignoring what people say,” says Pratishtha.
She feels the government and the administration has to be more sensitive towards PwDs and make infrastructural changes to make cities PwD-friendly.
“When I compare it with Oxford, I find a complete new world. All roads, streets, pavements, shops and each and every building is wheelchair accessible. I can go anywhere anytime on my own. This needs to be done in India, too! Government should make it mandatory for every building, every road and street and all shops to have ramps, braille signboards for visually impaired etc. More importantly, government policies should be made considering PwDs. As during the lockdown, staying in Delhi, I had to face the brunt of it as the attendants of PwDs were not listed among essential services and I was among several PwDs who had to suffer a lot due to it. Even after raising a strong voice for it, it took two months for things to improve,” said Pratishtha.
People should leave the mindset in which PwDs are considered as helpless people deprived of happiness, who have nothing to enjoy. Society needs to understand that a person with disability is no way less than any other person. They have their joys of life, dreams and they, too, want to fulfil their dreams,” she said.
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