PRESS RELEASE- WESTSIDE’s Anti-disability, Anti-wheelchair Policy Continues


 

WESTSIDE’s Anti-disability, Anti-wheelchair Policy Continues

 

It is estimated that 15% of the population of India is disabled. A large chunk of them are wheelchair bound. Being bonafide citizens of the nation, it is the duty of the government to take care of them like any other citizens. Though slow on the uptake, the government has been moving in to take the most basic steps beginning with ensuring that all public places like public transport, parks and commercial establishments are accessible to people with disabilities including people on wheelchairs.

 

However, an accident last evening (7th May, 2013) highlights the callous way in which both government laws and public opinions are overlooked and sidestepped by businesses.

 

Malini Chib, my daughter who despite her cerebral palsy has not let that hamper her life garnering two masters degree and writing a best-selling book (One Little Finger), had gone to the Westside store in Fort to do shopping for women’s apparel. Finding no lift for the floor leading to the women’s section, she told her friend: ‘Lets try the escalator’. What she did not realize is that no person on a wheelchair who has problems of balance should do this.

 

The result was expected. Both of them had a massive fall leading to cuts and bruises on Malini’s shoulder, waist and arms. Her friend got her back muscle pulled.

 

This would have just been an unfortunate accident had it not been for two things: one is the law that stipulates that such establishments make their place disabled friendly, and secondly the fact that five years back the ADAPT Rights Group, that works to ensure rights for people with disabilities, had carried out a protest demonstration highlighting this and other issues that goes against the interest of the community of people with disabilities. The demonstration was held to alert Westside to how their international stores were anti-disability. This was followed with lengthy letters written to them about the law and how they can make their place disabled friendly by constructing ramps and lifts for their floor upstairs.

 

Sadly, Westside has continued to blatantly and flagrantly flout the law. My daughter and her friend were lucky to get away with no permanent damage but I dread to think what could have happened. I dread to think what might happen to other people with disabilities that might walk into the store unwittingly. I dread to think of what must be happening to thousands of disabled people across the country in hundreds and thousands of such establishments which show such blatant antipathy towards the disabled population.

 

It is high time that the gravity of the issue be understood and addressed. It is high time that the people responsible in Westside for this travesty of justice be seriously warned so that it becomes a lesson to others concerned.

 

This is in the interest of 15% people of the nation and thus in the interest of the nation itself. 

 

-          Mithu Alur, Founder-Chairperson ADAPT – Able Disabled All People Together (formerly the Spastics Society of India)

 

 

#India – Women unsafe in literate Kerala #Shame #Vaw


Sunanda Pushkar, you are not alone!

O. J. JOYCEE, The Hindu

The experience of Ms. Sunanda Pushkar at Cochin airport might have shocked the nation and triggered a hurricane of discussion on the harassment of the celebrity. But I do not think that most women in Kerala will be startled by the episode, for this is a routine treatment meted out to them in their daily life, especially while commuting by public transport, particularly in private buses. Frustration, anger, fury, repulsion, nausea and a whole parameter of emotions have been expressed by women in Kerala, who are generally known to be intelligent, educated and practical. But no serious action has been taken against the miscreants, for one reason or the other.

The situation was no different 25 years ago, when I joined a college in Kerala for a PG course. The weekend trip home, 28 km away from the hostel, was a nightmare. Thanks to the reduced fare for students, the buses plying on the route will not stop at the designated stop when the crew see students on the wait. And so we have to run for some distance behind the bus. If you are fortunate enough to race and catch the bus, there is another obstacle waiting right on the footboard — the doorkeeper, a being created exclusively for buses in God’s own country. This being has no female equivalent, or at least I have not seen one, and is aptly christened, kili in Malayalam or ‘bird,’ apt for the whistle he blows in anticipation of a stop, or as and when he likes; it can also signify a lot of other stuff that blossoms in his weird imagination at the sight of a skirt, sari or churidhar or even a frock. This being will not get off the footboard but will stand back a wee bit, very reluctantly, and savour the moment as women are forced to brush past him as they board the bus.

No, no that’s not the end. Inside the bus, you encounter another creature, the conductor. This man will not receive the money from your hand: instead, he will take it, nay, squeeze it out of your hand, and return any change in the same way, with a double squeeze. Still not the end. Even if there is not even an inch of space inside the bus, he will scream at every stop, “Get back there. There is enough room to play football.”

If you are the obedient kind and make your way back, you have had it. There are many wolves waiting there hungrily for you. They will pinch you here, there and everywhere, till you scream in pain. Remember, you have to scream in Malayalam, “Aiiiyyyyoooooo” and not in English, “Ouch!” because men in Kerala are proud of their language and culture!

One wonders what pleasure is derived from pinching others. In all probability, these masochists are those who strongly advocate sari. A Malayalam beauty should be wrapped up in the five-and-a-half-yard material. And that is the last outfit you should opt for the Battle in the Bus. In the course of the bus ride, as the vehicle picks up speed, be prepared for when the jarring sudden brakes throw your body forward, the wolves in the back will be on your back, and the sudden release of the brake will boomerang you back.

If you are a novice, by this time you, your sari, bag, footwear, and all other paraphernalia will be in a state of hotchpotch. In brief, for an average Kerala woman, commuting by bus is a painful ordeal.

Voyeurism of all kinds is rampant in literate Kerala. You will be unabashedly ogled and stared at. It is as if scopophilia is the birthright of the male. Use of foul language and abusive remarks are generally swept aside and condoned as comparatively harmless. But what has astounded me the most is the passivity of the average Kerala woman. And if there is somebody who has summoned up the courage to protest, she will find herself a lone diminutive David against Goliath, the sarcastic crowd. Frustration, anger and fury are not going to solve the problem. Passivity amounts to indifference and evasiveness. Ensuring safe use of public transport by women must be a priority of the State. The privacy of complainants should be protected. What is most important is a general change in the attitude of society that should be more supportive and respectful of women.

(The writer’s email is: joyceejames@gmail.com)