It doesn’t cost so much to care
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hile on the topic of disability awareness that we began the year with, I think we should all take a long, hard look at how easy it actually is to become a more inclusive society. Ours is a society that is brutally exclusive. By way of example, look at all the public offices and school and church buildings. I would be surprised if there is one public building that has facilities for people with disabilities. This is what I mean by saying we are guilty of excluding those who are not able bodied in our public life. This unfortunately happens without design, without any ulterior motive and it happens due to ignorance. Therefore whatever stems from ignorance can be cured by a good dose of wisdom.It does not cost so much to construct wheelchair access entrances to public buildings. A few bags of cement and a handrail. In all entrances to departmental stores this is mandatory.
Parking spaces for people with disabilities are usually given in the prime spots. They are wider than spaces for non disabled people, to enable easy entry into the vehicle. Accessibility is a basic right of persons with disability, and every public building is obliged to provide that for them. In our crowded town areas, this seems impracticable, but future constructions can keep this in mind.
There are many ways in which persons with disabilities are being discriminated. At work, discrimination occurs when employment opportunities are denied a person on account of his disability. There have been cases of harassment and victimisation of persons with mental or physical disabilities. Many tasks are doubly difficult for them because the world is not designed to make accessibility easier for them. Access to public transport is another hurdle because buses and cars and trains are not designed with easy accessibility as a priority.
Most of these things are out of our control. But it is true that many areas can be made more user-friendly for persons with disability. It can start with schools, colleges and public institutions of learning. Constructing such access to the buildings will not make a big dent in the institution’s budget. In any case, if we genuinely want to show we care, we should expect it to cost us a little. And shame on us if we begrudge the other person that little sum.
In all fairness though, the churches should lead by example, and spend something toward making the house of God accessible to all His children.
That brings us to the idea of inclusiveness. Because making public buildings accessible is all about inclusivity. Do we want to shut out persons with disabilities from all our public discourses? Do they have no right to partake of our public meetings, conferences, festivals, concerts and artistic performances? Do they have no right to partake in our decision makings? What message are we sending out by not taking measures to include them? Are we saying that they are not worth including?
These are the silent messages being conveyed by the absence of action, right action. Wonder what Jesus did when he was confronted with the problem of disability in His day? Oh dear, He did something very politically incorrect. He healed the physically disabled and let them carry their beds around on the Sabbath. And He forgot his public image and went amongst them, healing lepers so they could become active members of society again. He also let them accompany him when he went to dinner with the rich. Wonder what we should be doing then?