The first ever World Report on Disability says that
more than one billion people in the world live with some form of disability, of whom nearly 200 million experience considerable difficulties in functioning. In the years ahead, disability will be an even greater concern because its prevalence is on the rise.
In India people with disabilities, who constitute almost 4-8% of the population are still fighting to get equal access to healthcare, education, employment and inclusion in society. Despite the magnitude of the issue, both awareness of and scientific information on disability issues are lacking.
This is where the awareness team comes in!
From community outreach programs like disability camps to door to door visits, from working with students to meeting government officials, from individual advocacy cases to policy changes the team is a dynamic workforce that works at various levels to create awareness about the rights and facilities that people with special needs have in our country.
We have also established help desks at the Doon Hospital, Dehradun and the Chief Medical Officer’s Office, Chandar Nagar, Dehradun. The desks help people access disability related information and government services like the Disability Certificate.
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Each Wednesday the Doon Hospital issues Disability Certificate which is required to claim any of a range of government concessions. The Certificate states the nature of the person’s disability and the percentage to which she is considered disabled. People accessing this service, the majority poor and frequently illiterate, find the cumbersome paperwork daunting.
We had heard from many KV parents that obtaining a certificate was difficult and required repeat visits, resulting in many parents giving up on the whole idea. When Jo went to get a certificate for Moy Moy, she found it was as bad as, if not worse than, the stories we had heard.
“It was predictably chaotic,” she said. “Just what you would expect in a government office – no clear instructions, no one willing to answer questions and no idea where the line formed!” But what really disturbed her was the total lack of dignity for Moy Moy. “When we finally got into the inner office, we were made to sit in front of a panel of doctors who stared at Moy without saying a word for a minute or two, inspecting her like some sort of specimen. Then they all whispered together and scribbled a few notes before stamping the certificate. But we got off easy. I heard from other parents that their child had been poked and prodded and questioned, as if to expose a potential fraud. And in the end, some of them were refused the certificate.”
The first day we simply observed. We found most people were standing around wondering what to do. When they asked the clerk sitting outside the CMO’s office, he directed them to a small room, where often there was no one at the desk. When someone was there, applicants would be asked to apply in writing for the certificate. No paper or pens were provided and no arrangements made for those who were illiterate.
By the next week we were ready to set up shop, though we were still unsure of how the system functioned. Gradually we created forms for people to fill out, got to know the doctors and which ones were the most helpful, and worked out the best way to proceed. Within a short time, we had designed a system which was streamlined and efficient.
We also provide the forms for rail and road concessions, and information about what else the certificate can be used for (Jo’s experience was that no information was voluntarily parted with: if you didn’t think to ask about pensions, insurance schemes or tax write-offs, no one would tell you).
We had been there long enough to begin questioning some of the basic assumptions in place: why should it be so difficult to obtain what is a legal right? Keeping this in mind we decided to increase the role of the Help Desk, it now doesn’t just provide information and support to get facilities but also looks at empowering people so that they do not have to rely on us to speak for them. It is lot more exciting and effective this way.
A FEW FACTS :
- Approximately 40% of the people in a year who get disability certificates have been assisted or referred by the Doon Help Desk (2010 -2011)
- We assist an average of 1200 people per year at the CMO Help Desk
- More men than women apply for disability certificates
- Very few children – especially those under five – request certificates
- People with physical disabilities are the largest group applying; people with mental handicap are the smallest
There are several reasons why outreach to students is an important part of our campaign. Firstly, in John F. Kennedy’s words
Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.
Children are the future of the world and if sensitized and aware they will be the change makers. Secondly, every child must know his right to play and go to school. Inclusion like therapy has to begin at the earliest possible stage.
But most importantly, working with students is great FUN!
Student Awareness Workshops: Celebrating Differences
Career Workshops: Discovering Choices
With the Disability Rights movement gaining momentum in India awareness about disability has increased manifold. One realization that accompanied this was the existing paucity of individuals working in the field of special needs. Our career workshops were conceived keeping in mind this scarcity. The workshops aim at making students aware of the innumerable choices that are available to them in the field of rehabilitation, but that is not our only aim. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every civil engineer designed buildings keeping the most vulnerable in mind? Or if a future bureaucrat made policies that positively affect those with special needs? We look towards creating an understanding of special needs so that whatever career the students choose they are sensitive to the needs of those around them and make plans accordingly.
Over the years the foundation has conducted several direct and indirect outreach programs. We conduct home visits, planned and unplanned community visits and disability camps. Our help desks alone provide services to approximately 1000 people with disabilities per year. We have conducted training and sensitization workshops for community health workers, self help groups and various NGOs.
We have worked closely with bus conductors, TTEs, auto drivers, Vikram drivers, SSA officials, Anganwadi teachers, shopkeepers, hotels, schools and college managements and others to talk about issues like accessibility, inclusive education and equal employment opportunities.
NOTE: Disability Certificates are made every Wednesdays at the Chief Medical Officer’s Office, Chandar Nagar, Dehradun from 10 am onwards.You need the following documents:
- Proof of residence (ration card, voter’s ID card)
- Two passport size photographs that clearly show the physical disability
Latika Roy Foundation Resource Centre
369/1 Vasant Vihar Enclave,