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 -Republic Day tableau calls disabled ‘powerless’ #WTFnews #disability

By , TNN | Jan 23, 2013,

Republic Day tableau calls disabled ‘powerless’
A tableau at the Republic Day rehearsal on Tuesday
NEW DELHI: It’s supposed to empower the disabled, but if the newly formed department of disability affairs has its way, it would call itself the ‘department of the powerless’. At least that’s the name it has given itself in Hindi — nishaktata karya vibhag. Now, to the anger of activists, even a tableau for people with disabilities that will be part of this year’s Republic Day parade has the same inscription in Hindi.The activists, who noticed the name on the tableau three days ago, want it changed immediately. But that is easier demanded than done.

“With difficulty we had managed to convince the government to have a tableau on the disabled. When we finally have one, the inscription on it is so offensive that it has ruined all the work we had done on the issue. To add further insult, the commentator will repeat the word nishakt constantly and the entire country will listen to it. It’s an abusive word,” said Javed Abidi, convener of Disability Rights Group.

The defence ministry has agreed to change the word on the tableau but says it needs a written request from the department of disability affairs. Stuti Kacker, secretary, ministry of social justice and empowerment, said the department was trying its best to change the name. “I can only refer the matter. We hope a decision will be taken quickly,” she said.

Activists say it’s derogatory, demand change of name

Even if the inscription on the tableau is changed, the name of the department will remain till a change is approved by the Cabinet. Poonam Natarajan, chairwoman of National Trust, agreed that nishaktata is an inappropriate term. “Of course, it has to be changed. I think they are trying to change it to viklang jan karyashala. But the change has to be made at the Cabinet level,” she said.

“We noticed the word a few days ago while rehearsing. It’s very derogatory. In fact, state governments such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh still use the word apang (crippled), which is also demeaning. There is very little awareness about disability righ8ts,” said Pradeep Raj, a disability rights activist who is rehearsing for the Republic Day with 22 other youths with disabilities. Pradeep’s group first noticed the inscription on the tableau.

Abidi felt ‘nishaktata’ reminded him of the word ‘handicapped’, which was also considered offensive by disability rights activists. “We have moved on. No one uses the word handicapped anymore. It originated after the world war when disabled soldiers used to beg on the streets of Europe with a cap in their hands. In the 1990s, the term was phased out as it was considered offensive. Now even United Nations uses the word ‘disability’. In Hindi it should be viklang and definitely not nishakt,” he said.


Nine-year-old visually challenged girl raped in Delhi #disability #Vaw #Shame

Published: Tuesday, Dec 4, 2012, 19:06 IST
Place: New Delhi | Agency: IANS

A nine-year-old visually challenged girl was raped by her former neighbour in Delhi, police said Tuesday, adding that the attacker has been arrested.

The girl was alone at her home at the time of the attack. She reported the incident to her mother, a domestic help, when she came back to home. The girl’s name has been withheld for legal reasons.

Her attacker, identified as Karan Nepali, 23, raped her at her residence in central Delhi’s Desh Bandhu Gupta Road area on Monday night and fled from the spot.

“A case regarding the incident was registered Monday night and the accused was arrested from his residence in Sarai Rohilla in the early hours on Tuesday,” said Additional Commissioner of Police Devesh Chandra Srivastava.

Nepali lived in the neighbourhood of the girl, but for the past few months he has been residing in Sarai Rohilla area.

Breaking the silence around disabled sexuality #mustread

Desexualised or hypersexualised because of their impairments, women with disabilities are denied the right to see themselves and be seen as independent sexual beings. Introducing a series on disability and sexuality byRicha Kaul Padte

 disabled sexuality

“I’d rather use my legs as wings” Source: Disability Culture

‘To be human is to be sexual’ – Winder

At first glance, this series may seem superfluous. Disability and sexuality doesn’t sound nearly half as important or pressing as disability and education, disability and employment rights, disability and healthcare, or disability and practically all the access issues that people with disabilities in India face on a daily basis. Sexuality belongs, perhaps, to the realm of afterthought – an added bonus when the ‘real stuff’ is sorted out. There are others to whom the issues may seem unconnected – sex and sexuality are often seen as belonging outside the parameters of the lives of the disabled. People with disabilities have more important things to worry about. Sex is not on their minds. And definitely not on the minds of disabled women. And on the mind of theIndian disabled woman? Not a chance.

But what if sexuality was more than simply sex? What if it had to do with what you feel when you look in the mirror; who you love and why; what your sexual orientation really is (despite what you are forced to tell people); the violences you have suffered in silence? Throughout the world women’s sexuality – in its all-encompassingWHO definition as thoughts, behaviours, attitudes, preferences and relationships that are influenced by a series of economic, social, psychological and cultural factors – is a topic shrouded in silence and secrecy. In a South Asian socio-cultural context where the sexualities of women are actively contained, controlled and oppressed – or passively ignored and denied – the repercussions for all women can be and often are deeply debilitating.  Constructed through images of advertising beauty, housewives producing the best meals, and always through a heterosexual male lens, Indian women find themselves living in a world where their sexuality struggles to find expression outside these frameworks. However, a life outside this framework does not necessarily mean a life of liberation. What about some of those women who aren’t held up to beauty standards or’s standards or any standards at all — not because they have escaped their chains, but because their chains are even deadlier — because they aren’t even considered to be in the gamebecause they aren’t considered to bewomen. Desexualised – or in the case of the mentally disabled, hypersexualised – because of their impairments, women with disabilities are denied the right to be sexual, and to see themselves and be seen as independent sexual beings.

Between 5 and 6% of the Indian population lives with an impairment (the social model of disability rights defines an impairment as the physical or mental handicap, and disability as the structural and societal barriersthat prevent an impaired person from living a full life). So with 70 million disabled Indians and a sex ratio that suggests that just under half of these 70 million people are girls or women, why is the subject of sex and the Indian disabled woman so hard to stomach? And furthermore, what are the far-reaching consequences of this indigestion?

Consistently framed within a discourse of charity, pity, or burden, and relegated to the status of ‘things’ to be ‘managed’, women with disabilities face disproportionate levels of sexual violence and abuse, suffer from low self-esteem and body image, and are given little to no sexual education (in a country where the levels and quality of sex education are practically negligible for even the nondisabled) under the belief that they cannot and will never have sexual partners. They consequently face a range of discriminatory practices and humiliating experiences from healthcare professionals, families and organisations that stem from similar myths and misconceptions about their sexuality, or lack thereof. However, what is changing faster than policies and attitudes are the sounds of resistance breaking through the silence around disabled sexuality – ie: sexuality that has very literally been disabled by society. Women from across the subcontinent – and the world – are bringing to the fore issues surrounding their sexualities. Demanding the right to be heard, accepted and actively included within larger discussions on sexuality and sexual rights, these women are activists, lawyers, educationists, counsellors, or simply individuals who seek to rupture the systemic silence around the rights and violations of their sexual selves. They are demanding conversations about sexuality through which first and foremost, a disabled woman is not seen for her cane, her wheelchair, or her crutch, but as a woman – just like you or me.

This series aims to explore and highlight the multifaceted arena of disability and sexuality through the narratives, voices, and perspectives of women with disabilities. It tries to reframe the discourse around sex, beauty, relationships, mental health and violence, and believes that through a redefining and expanding of what these terms have come to mean, all women – irrespective of disability -­- can deeply benefit. It seeks to further the whispers and murmurings of a powerful dialogue, and encourages others to join in.

On her blog, an activist and writer who calls herself Wheelchair Dancer writes of her experiences in coming to terms with her disability. After a long struggle – both personal and political, or somewhere within the always already mixed arena of the two – she declares: “I’m here. I’m disabled. And I do it. Yes, I do. Even in this body that you cannot imagine anyone [doing it with] and loving.”  This series asks you to dance with her.

(Richa Kaul Padte is a freelance writer and feminist activist living between Bombay and Goa. She was the co-author and project coordinator of, an online initiative by Point of View and CREA)

Infochange News & Features, September 2012


#India- Jammed Wheels #disability #rights

Outlook Magazine | Oct 29, 2012


Sanjay Rawat
Disabled girl in a wheelchair crossing the road in New Delhi
rights: disabled people
Jammed Wheels
Out in our streets, disabled people feel the pain everyday

The Gaping Holes

  • India yet to get a cohesive, standardised sign language
  • Barrier-free infrastructure yet to be implemented in public areas like bus stations, railway stations, schools, cinema halls
  • Lack of basic, inclusive civic facilities: no audio-enabled traffic signals, pavements with ramps, few disability-friendly toilets, negligible penalties
  • Poor functional entertainment accessibility, like no subtitling on local language TV channels
  • Reservation for disabled persons in govt posts is 3%, but only 0.5% utilised


Most of Ummul Kher’s childhood memories involve incidents of fractures—17 in all, and seven surgeries to fix them. The frequent accidents, spurred by a rare bone disease, had a plus though—it prodded her to deal with her insecurities by taking to books with a zeal never seen before in her family; neither of her parents, from an urban Delhi slum area, had even gone to school. And so she excelled at academics, served as headgirl at school, won numerous scholarships.

Six months ago, though, 22-year-old Ummul’s legs gave way and she landed up in a wheelchair. As a post-graduate student majoring in politics at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, Ummul’s affection for books has only grown, except for one detail: a trip to the library, her “favourite” haunt on campus, is barely accessible anymore. “To get to class and the library, I need to take an autorickshaw, which I can’t afford everyday. So I step out of hostel only a few days a month.”

Pol science post-graduate student Ummul Kher’s biggest regret is that she can’t visit the JNU library as often as she wants. (Photograph by Tribhuvan Tiwari)

At the other end of town, in Delhi’s Rohini locality, 19-year-old Riya Gupta feels just as helpless, cooped up in front of the computer all day long. Except for one day a month, when she is driven to a spinal injuries centre which has counselling sessions for quadriplegics like her. An ace swimmer at 13, she was forced into a dive in a shallow swimming pool by her teachers, and that caused permanent damage to her spine. “I have been in a wheelchair for the last five years and in all this time accessibility has not improved one bit in public spaces, at least not enough to enable me to venture out on my own. People on the road still stare, awareness continues to be limited,” rues Riya.

Riya and Ummul both have a pressing, valid question: why has so little changed for disabled persons in India? Why does their lot, and they number roughly 70 million in the country, continue to be an ‘invisible minority’? Right now, a new disability bill draft submitted to the ministry of social justice is under consideration. Among other updated provisions, it speaks of widening the definition of disability, aims to ‘recognise legal capacity, establish national and state disability rights authorities’ and provide better access to information to the differently abled.

Meanwhile, the Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre (ISLRTC) at IGNOU has been set in place just this month to ‘create a linguistic record/analysis of the Indian Sign Language’, the first effort of its kind in India. A few months ago, the ministry of social justice also set up a disability division (empowerment of persons with disabilities), to streamline all kinds of planning and integration in the area.

Bhola Nath Dolui, by turns autorickshaw driver and swimming coach in Calcutta. (Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee)

In 2010-11, the percentage of students with disabilities in govt-run schools dropped from 0.75% to a dismal 0.26%.

But after decades of neglect and continued stigma, it’s just not enough, say disabled rights activists, calling it just more meaningless laws and regulations on paper. “Disability did not even get factored into the census till 2001. And even though the 1995 Disability Law clearly states that public spaces should be made accessible for persons with disabilities, how many in reality are actually accessible even now? How many of the new buildings that have come up post-1995 are barrier-free?” asks Javed Abidi, founder of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, and Disability Rights Group. “Isn’t it appalling that India is yet to get a standardised sign language? The nuances of sign language in one city are different from that in another city,” points out Abhijit Dasgupta, who spearheads the Sukriti Foundation for disabled people in Calcutta.Even supporters of the current disability law, like ex-chief commissioner for persons with disability and founder of Amar Jyoti School in Delhi, Uma Tuli, admit that “while this law is currently the best in Asia, a drawback is the lack of provision for penalties for those who do not follow the rules”.

At a very basic level, the concerns go back to inclusion in the barest of daily activity. Shivani Gupta, founder of AccessAbility, ticks off all the places in India’s big cities that are inaccessible to her as a quadriplegic, and that the ‘abled’ take for granted: “None of the traffic lights are audio-enabled. Pavements are not smooth enough for a wheelchair. Even in supposedly inclusive systems like the Delhi Metro, there is only one entry-exit that has an elevator. What if you need to cross the road? The metro feeder buses are inaccessible. At most bus stops, there is no seamless movement from the platform into the bus. The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system too is flawed—how will a person with physical disability get to a bus stop planted in the middle of the road? And now there is talk of replicating it, despite protests. Plus any movement towards better accessibility is sporadic, there is no sense of civic agencies coming together to build long-term, large-scale barrier-free infrastructure.”

Hearing-impaired Anurag Tripathi takes orders at Gurgaon’s Lemon Tree Hotel. (Photograph by Sanjay Rawat)

In Mumbai, Mahesh Umrania, 26, who lost his vision to glaucoma 15 years ago, faces a similar issue with the city’s local railway, where incidents of vision-impaired persons falling on the tracks are not uncommon. Worse, the sitarist and photographer continues to face discrimination each time he hunts for a new home to rent in the suburbs. “The landlords ask the strangest questions: how will you keep the place clean, what if you get robbed? How will you eat? How will you dress?” Asha Singha, a sign language interpreter in Delhi, has more subtle concerns. She wonders why TV programmes are still not subtitled.

Now here’s a shocker: in 2010-11, the percentage of students with disabilities in government-run schools dropped to 0.26 per cent, a sharp decline from 0.75 per cent the previous year, as revealed in an HRD ministry survey. “There is a systemic problem, in every aspect of nation-building, people with disabilities are always ignored. There is no strong law, no real planning, it’s all token charity,” feels Javed Abidi.

The annual Employability Fair will have about 45 companies this year to select nearly 900 people with disabilities.

Still, gradually today there is a sense that the private sector may be opening up to inclusion. The Deaf Way Foundation’s Namrata Patro reports that they have an increasing number of corporate employees signing up to learn sign language, to be able to communicate with colleagues with hearing disabilities. A range of fast food joints and hotels are signing up the differently abled to be part of their staff, even seeking out hearing- and speech-impaired people. Like Anurag Tripathi, 24, who’s been waiting tables at a star hotel cafe for the last four years. He keeps a special notepad designed for hearing-impaired employees close at hand, and places it in front of customers, where they can scribble in their order. “It’s difficult to adjust with new staff members, because it takes time for them to come to terms working with colleagues with hearing impairment but, yes, there are far more employment opportunities than before,” says Tripathi.Many private firms have approached organisations like Ability Foundation to look at their building plans and suggest changes. “But employers still need to look at giving jobs to disabled persons as an effective and compelling workforce, not just CSR,” says Jayshree Raveendran, founder, Ability Foundation, Chennai. In other words, there is movement, though slow. The annual EmployABILITY Fair, put together by Raveendran’s organisation, which will have about 45 companies this year to select nearly 900 people with disabilities, also challenges “tokenism”.

Mahesh Umrania, a vision-impaired musician and photographer in big, bad Mumbai. (Photograph by Apoorva Salkade)

There is an attempt to break other barriers too, however sporadic they may be. “In the last 15-20 years, we have had more social acceptance. Plus, with events like the Special Olympics, Paralympics, Abelympics etc that highlight their skills, there is a move towards integration,” feels Tuli. Technology has also tipped the scales, feels Bangalore-based G.K. Mahantesh, who is vision-impaired and runs Samarthanam, a centre for persons like him. “It has simplified life a little, especially tools like screen-reading software, educational and recreational devices, like the audio cricket ball.”

Meanwhile, in Calcutta, Dasgupta invites differently abled participants to an annual adventure expedition, likewise Partho Bhowmick of Beyond Sight Foundation trains blind people to take photographs with still cameras. “Learning photography gives them a certain confidence…to do something others believe they can’t,” the latter says. But these positive stories are too few and far between, often the result of a few individuals’ lifelong struggle. The state as a whole, and its people, continue to be prejudiced and unfeeling towards people who just need a little bit more attention.

Some Bright Spots, Some Less Dark Places

  • Blind With Camera Started by photographer Partho Bhowmick of the Mumbai-based Beyond Sight Foundation, Blind With Camera works with a simple idea: to provide vision-impaired people an artistic platform. In 48-hour workshops held in Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi, Bhowmick helps collate their work for display at exhibitions held across the country. The project also offers an online photography course; the plan is to introduce photography courses in blind schools. The Blind With Camera E-school, in compliance with web accessibility standard for the visually impaired, throws up basic and advanced tutorials, info about adaptive tools and a platform for students to upload and share their photographic work.
  • Beyond Belief Every year, young men like Bhola Nath Dolui, an autorickshaw driver in Calcutta with a lower limb disability, get together for the Beyond Belief project, a series of adventure programs and survival training that resembles a television reality show. Led by documentary filmmaker Abhijit Dasgupta, a team of differently abled persons undertake challenges that include scaling high mountains, hiking through deep forests, river rafting in West Bengal, all to prove that people with physical disabilities are differently abled, not ‘disabled’. The project also seeks to boost their employment opportunities.
  • Travel Another India This unusual travel outfit runs a ‘Journey Without Barriers’ initiative, reaching out to physically disabled persons across the world who may want to visit popular tourist hotspots in India, like Ladakh, Spiti, Mysore, Goa, and even lets you work out your own itinerary. One of the few such ventures in the travel sector in India, the idea is to “develop accessible tourism opportunities”, still in its infancy here. The team at Travel Another India works closely with AccessAbility consultancy firm to improve accessibility at various locations. Himalaya On Wheels, another one of their initiatives, makes mountains more accessible to tourists using wheelchairs.
  • EmployABILITY A one-of-its-kind professional annual employment fair, conceived by Ability Foundation in Chennai, it challenges the view that for the corporate sector, hiring persons with disability is merely good CSR. This one is a job fair for disabled persons with educational qualifications, which are duly matched with the vacancies available in 35-45 companies across banking, hospitality, retail, IT sectors. Nearly 900 disabled persons will take part in the fair this year, to be held in the first week of November in Hyderabad. The participants will also be trained beforehand on how to face job interviews. “The fair opens the corporate world up to a whole new pool of skilled persons,” says Jayshree Raveendran of Ability Foundation.



The great unmentionable in disability politics #mustread


English: Barnstar for WikiProject Disability

English: Barnstar for WikiProject Disability (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



RAHILA GUPTA , 31 July 2012


 “I felt there was no space for me to express grief at my son’s disability”. The grief of those who care for people with a disability is betrayal of the Cause.  Rahila Gupta asks: how do you value disability at the same time as mourn the loss of ability?

Most political movements at their inception demand radical resolution of the wrongs and injustices that they have been set up to overturn – and the disability movement is no different. My first brush with the movement happened in the 80s when I began the battle for a proper education for my son who had cerebral palsy as a result of a difficult and negligent birth. There was a huge amount of institutional oppression and individual prejudice which was hard to fight as an individual both in physical and emotional terms. There was no right to a mainstream education enshrined in the law and various groups of parents and carers of disabled children and disabled people themselves came to our support at critical moments in the struggle. As I had been involved in race and gender politics, it would have been a natural transition to become active in the wider disability movement, a transition I did not make and which I put down to a lack of time then. Gradually I became aware that there were some deep seated reservations which I had not articulated even to myself. Only now, ten years after I lost my son, I realise that the contradictions of the movement had me in a vice like grip which I can only now begin to untangle.

There is no doubt that the history of disabled people is littered with the most grotesque and inhumane attempts to wipe them off the face of this earth – even progressive socialists, like the Fabians, of the early twentieth century supported the idea of eugenics to create a super race until Hitler’s experiments with it consigned the idea to the scrapheap.  Of course, the first step towards unwinding this hatred would be to promote positive images of disabled people, of the excavation of a hidden history of great contributions, of heroic stories, of moving towards light and glory, of asserting the right to exist, of being and becoming visible. It has been the inevitable pattern, with some variations, of the feminist, anti-racist and gay movements among others. But this is where the similarity ends, or should end. Whereas the attributes of sex or race or sexual orientation become a ‘handicap’ because of patriarchy, racism or heterosexism, there is a point at which impairment becomes a ‘handicap’ not merely because of disablism but a condition which can cause pain, discomfort, aggravation and frustration to the individual concerned, regardless of how far society travels in its attitudes and how far technology succeeds in bridging that gap.

This is not to promote the suffering, helpless victims deserving of charity narrative. Important insights have emerged from the disability movement which challenge those narratives, namely the distinction between the medical and social models of disability. The medical model sees disability as an individual problem to be ‘cured’ and ‘treated’ whereas the social model recasts this as a problem inherent in the way that society and the physical environment have been structured, so wheelchair users cannot attend a meeting not because they are in wheelchairs but because no ramps have been provided.  As Vic Finkelstein puts it, ‘What was paramount was our focus on the need to change the disabling society rather than make us fit for society.’

I completely agree with the flaws of ‘the fit for society’ model. And yet, and yet what about being fit for your own sake?. Somewhere between the medical and social model stood individuals like me and my son. We did both: I campaigned for schools to admit him which meant they had to do a lot more to become accessible than merely provide ramps but devise and implement policies of inclusion and initiate a thoroughgoing change of attitudes. At the same time, I tried Botox on the advice of the doctors so that it might make his eating more efficient, his muscles less stiff and therefore less painful. He had operations on his leg muscles to prevent his hips becoming dislocated. He wore a variety of splints and braces, the line between chasing a ‘cure’ or increasing comfort often a blur.

The attempt to rescue disability from its tragic status tipped over into a glorification of disability. A similar trend was apparent in the early days of the women’s movement when it was impossible to be openly critical of mothers or to even admit the possibility that women could be violent. The great immigration lawyer Steve Cohen said towards the end of his life when severe arthritis had all but stopped his campaigning and writing, ‘I’m not disabled and proud, I’m disabled and pissed off!’ Like him, I felt there was no space for me to express grief at my son’s disability. It was the great unmentionable in disability politics – the grief of those who care for them. How do you value disability at the same time as mourn the loss of ability? By separating the disability from the person, by valuing the disabled person, would be one answer, another version of the biblical exhortation to ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’. It is, of course, hard to separate these in practice: the disability is so much a part of a disabled person’s identity that any comment on the disability feels like an assault on the person.  I raised these knotty questions in The Ballad of Nihal Armstrong,  a dramatic monologue performed at the Arts Theatre in London last June, in which I recount the story of our struggle and triumphs in the fight for my son’s rights. Perhaps it is the intense love for my son that permeates the Ballad that gives me the ‘permission’ to mourn his loss of ability.

There are some who see disability as a gift, a position which finds particular favour among religious groups. Eleanore Stump, an American Professor of Philosophy, argues that suffering makes one grow and narrates approvingly  the story of a mother with an autistic child ‘who came to see that even the suffering (i.e. her autistic child) of her life was a gift’ in her book, Wandering in Darkness: Narrative and the Problem of Suffering. The language and perspective of this position, while trying to be positive, would be dismissed by most disabled people because of its equation between suffering and disability.

This idea of disability as a gift, as something special and worth reproducing was taken to its logical, but in my view extremely troubling, conclusion by a deaf couple in 2008 who wanted the right to select an embryo with the deaf gene. They wanted their child to be part of a proud linguistic minority although it was not clear why a hearing child could not be brought up in that culture with the additional advantages that hearing brings such as the ability to enjoy music. The argument as seen from the perspective of the disability lobby is twofold: an interpretation of equality, if you have the right to discard a deaf foetus, you should have the right to discard a hearing foetus rather than an equality between people with more strings to their bow; and doing anything that reduces the number of disabled people in the world is evidence of discrimination, an argument that underpins the opposition to abortion and the right to die movement.

Definitions of impairment are becoming wider so that, from some perspectives, the size of the disabled community in most societies is larger than ever.  Laying claim to greater numbers has often been the strategy used by minorities to tackle their powerlessness – black people claiming powerful ‘white’ men and women rumoured to have black antecedents as their own, for example – although as we have seen numbers are no guarantee of increased bargaining power as women are still widely oppressed.

As political movements mature and strengthen, they move from striking either/or positions to a recognition of the complexity of human situations and responses. Having established its presence, a movement does not feel threatened by a multiplicity of opposing views. I believe the disability movement is at that point. Baroness Jane Campbell, Commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said in 2008, ‘I believe our position as disabled people is fundamentally different to what it was 20, 10, even 5 years ago. I believe we have a powerful voice.’  She argues that is time for the disability movement to join forces with other disadvantaged groups, even carers, because ‘the ideas of the disability movement – barrier removal, reforming public services to give people greater control over their own lives, and equality legislation based on accommodating difference rather than ignoring it – are the blueprint for the next stages of promoting equality and human rights overall.’  The movement should be ready to accommodate a carer’s perspective without feeling threatened and to explore the contradictions that dishearten potential allies.




FAQ -Copyright Amendment Act and impact on print Impaired persons

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service. A package containing those three and all NPS symbols is available at the Open Icon Library (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some Frequently Asked Questions to the Amendment to the Copyright Act of India, 1957 and its Impact on Print Impaired Persons

1. Who benefits?

All print impaired persons be they totally blind, low vision, learning disabled or orthopedically challenged in certain ways are covered by this clause.

2. What can be done now that was not possible earlier?

Print impaired individuals, or authorized service providers / organizations can suitably modify a work under Copyright so as to make it accessible to meet the specific needs of the print impaired person concerned. This means that a standard printed book, for example may be converted to an alternate format (not necessarily a special format) including Braille, large font, text readable by screen reader, audio (be it synthetic audio or human voice recording) without seeking the permission of the rights holder.

3. How is this different?

In the past, any alternate format creation could have been defined as an infringement unless it was backed up by prior written permission from the rights holder. One had to seek the permission if one had to be on the right side of the law. Now thankfully we do not need permissions.

4.  Are there any restrictions?

Yes, there are reasonable restrictions such as
– conversion should be a not for profit activity. In case it is a for profit activity, there is a separate clause under which a special license can be obtained.
– the beneficiaries has to be a bonafide print impaired person or organizations that serve them.
– reasonable precaution need to be taken by all that the accessible copy is not misused commercially.

5. Does this mean that the publisher has to give soft copy?

No. The copyright law does not cover the delivery of books which is the purview of another department and another law. We are planning to take it up as well. For the present, these exemptions allow an existing work which is not accessible to be made accessible without permission.

6. Can accessible copy be shared?

Effectively yes, as long as it is not misused for commercial purposes and is available to print impaired persons only.

7. What is the wording of the clause?

It runs as follows.

Section 52 (1)The following act shall not be an infringement of copyright, namely:
(zb) the adaptation, reproduction, issue of copies or communication to the public of any work in any accessible format, by —
(i) any person to facilitate persons with disability to access to works including sharing with any person with disability of such accessible format for private or personal use, educational purpose or research; or
(ii) any organization working for the benefit of the persons with disabilities in case the normal format prevents the enjoyment of such works by such persons:
Provided that the copies of the works in such accessible format are made available to the persons with disabilities on a nonprofit basis but to recover only the cost of production:
Provided further that the organization shall ensure that the copies of works in such accessible format are used by persons with disabilities and takes reasonable steps to prevent its entry into ordinary channels of business.
Explanation. For the purposes of the sub-clause, “any organization” includes an organization registered under section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and working for the benefit of persons with disability or recognized under Chapter X of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 or receiving grants from the Government for facilitating access to persons with disabilities or an educational institution or library or archives recognized by the Government.

8. What provisions affect the creation of accessible cop[ies when it is undertaken as a not for profit activity?

The following new section involving a compulsory license would be applicable

³31B. (1) Any person working for the benefit of persons with disability on a profit basis or for business may apply to the Copyright Board, in such form and manner and accompanied by such fee as may be prescribed, for a compulsory license to publish any work in which copyright subsists for the benefit of such persons, in a case to which clause (zb) of sub-section (1) of section 52 does not apply and the Copyright Board shall dispose of such application as expeditiously as possible and endeavor shall be made to dispose of such application within a period of two months from the date of receipt of the application.

(2) The Copyright Board may, on receipt of an application under sub-section (1), inquire, or direct such inquiry as it considers necessary to establish the credentials of the applicant and satisfy itself that the application has been made in good faith.

(3) If the Copyright Board is satisfied, after giving to the owners of rights in the work a reasonable opportunity of being heard and after holding such inquiry as it may deem necessary, that a compulsory license needs to be issued to make the work available to the disabled, it may direct the Registrar of Copyrights to grant to the applicant such a license to publish the work.

(4) Every compulsory license issued under this section shall specify the means and format of publication, the period during which the compulsory license may be exercised and, in the case of issue of copies, the number of copies that may be issued including the rate or royalty:
Provided that where the Copyright Board has issued such a compulsory license it may, on a further application and after giving reasonable opportunity to the owners of rights, extend the period of such compulsory license and allow the issue of more copies as it may deem fit.


Compiled By:

The Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC)
Dr. Sam Taraporevala
St. Xavier’s College, 5 Mahapalika Marg, Mumbai 400001

Immediate Release-Women’s Organisations Condemn the Arrest of Paraplegic woman in Jaipur

Dharna at the Vidhan Sabha on 1st March, 2012

Women’s Organisations Condemn the Arrest Of Seema who Is 80% Disabled And Hold A Protest Outside The Vidhan Sabha.
Probably the First Case in the State where a Person Leading a Completely Paralytic Life Has Been Arrested. It Is Very Clear That That The Rajasthan Police And Home Department HAVE DONE THIS TO SAVE THE POLICEMAN WHO WAS HER SEXUAL HARASSER
Cases Of Murder Victim Sonu and Soni Sodi, victim of sexual torture by Chhattisgarh police also Raised.
Kavita Srivastava And Others Put In List Of Persons Prohibited From Entering The Vidhan Sabha


1st March, 2012

Under the leadership of Dr Pawan Surana, Ex chair of the State Women’s Commission women’s organisation with representation from trade unions protested outside the Vidhan Sabha against the arrest of Seema a parpaplegic in an abduction and conspiracy case. As is well known Seema is herself a victim of sexual torture by the Pratap Nagar police station SHO and other constables who are presently lodged in Jail and the trial is underway. ( FIR no 51/2011). Probably in the history of Indian Criminal justice system a paraplegic of this sort was never arrested and the Rajasthan police has made history.

According to the groups the arrest of Seema in the Hina case (50/2011), is part of the design to prevent the witnesses of Seema in the sexual torture case to give their statements against the SHO and his colleagues. They also have been arrested as conspirators in the case and are lodged in the same jail where Ram Niwas vishnoi is. The main agenda of the arrest of the police has been to discredit Seema and her witnesses and save Ram niwas Vishnoi.

Women’s groups were of the opinion that while Hina’s case may be genuine and they have sympathies with her, but her parents had grudgingly got her to meet senior leaders of the movement just once. After that she was never available.

They comdemned Ashok Gehlot for this move by the police, which was said was being done under orders of the Rajashan High Court. . They were of the opinion that incase it was such, then why did they not rush to the Supreme Court, as they did in the Reservation case and got relief.

They could have done it in Seema’s case too if they cared for the dignity of the disabled. According to PUCL Vice President Radha Kant Saxena the National Jail reforms expert said that the Ashok Gehlot Government and the Rajsathan police had made history by arresting a paralytic.Women’s groups have decided to go to all authorities against this.

The assembly also raised the issue of the case of the murder of domestic worker Sonu where the police refused to respond to the missing report of the parents and the husband and instead said that Bengali women like to have sex with other men and that she would return in a few days. The family and the members of the domestic workers union ran around urging the police to respond. Finally, eight days later the body of Sonu was found close to the SP office. The manner in which the police had handled this situation was taken up strongly with the senior police officials and an SP was appointed to investigate the allegations. Her case was also taken up strongly.

When a delegation from the dharna tried to go into the Vidhan Sabha to meet the Chief Minister they were told that all the people could go but Kavita Srivastava as she was in the prohibited list of persons from entering the Vidhan Sabha. The entire group condemned the Ashok Gehlot Government and decided that they would not go into the Vidhan Sabha. From informal sources we were told that other activists were also put on this list of those prohibited people. The assembly has decided to attack this clipping of democratic rights.

The meeting concluded with a resolve to call a meeting of all activists urgently and build a movement for the justice of Seema. They also decided that they would build a campaign against this list prohibiting people from entering the VIDHAN SABHA

We are,

The speakers at the Meeting were Dr. Pawan Surana, ex chairperson State Women’s Commission, Mewa Bharti, Rajasthan Domestic Workers Union, REnuka PAmecha, Women’s Rehabilitation group, Prem Krishan Sharma and Kavita Srivastava, PUCL, Harkesh, Construction and General Worker’s Union, Mukesh and LAxman, Suchana evam Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan, Manju from CFAR, Hemlata, Jagriti Mahila Manch, Jaipur, Akshay from the Right to food and Resource Centre, Sunita a domestic worker,

Kavita SRivastava..

WTF Jaipur – Paraplegic woman arrested for ‘kidnap’ and ‘sexual abuse’

Jaipur: In a shocking and bizarre incident in Jaipur, the police have arrested a 21-year-old paraplegic woman over charges of abuse. The police claim the woman is involved in the kidnapping and sexual abuse of another woman.

What is shocking is that the 21-year old herself is allegedly a victim of sexual abuse by three Rajasthan policemen.

Her parents alleged that she was being falsely implicated in another case so that the three arrested policemen could walk free.

She lost both her legs after she jumped in front of a train in January 2011, upset over allegedly being beaten and sexually humiliated by the policemen.

The woman is now at Jaipur’s SMS Hospital after being sent to judicial custody. Her father, who is a police constable himself, claimed she needed constant help and attention.

But police have said that they responded to the Rajasthan High Court‘s order seeking arrest of all accused in the other woman’s sexual abuse case.

Watch Ibn Video here


Differently-abled passenger off-loaded SpiceJet Flight for flying unescorted


 Feb 20, 2012- An independent, widely travelled woman with cerebral palsy was forced off a Goa-bound plane minutes before take-off from Calcutta airport on Sunday morning because the pilot had reservations about her being on board without an escort.

Jeeja Ghosh, 40, works with an advocacy group of the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy and has been staying and travelling the world on her own since she was a student. So imagine her shock when a smiling flight attendant on board the SpiceJet flight SG 803 walked up to seat 35D to tell her she would need to get off the plane.

“But tell me why?” protested Jeeja, who had clocked thousands of air miles without ever being told her condition was a barrier to flying alone.

The flight attendant, polite but firm, said she would know the reason once she was escorted out of the aircraft. “No, tell me first,” she demanded. No answer.

Flight SG 803 took off for Mumbai en route to Goa on schedule without Jeeja despite her being issued a boarding card, and all because the pilot wouldn’t budge from his stand that a passenger with cerebral palsy should not travel alone.

A senior SpiceJet official said the airline would need to “find out what exactly happened” before making a statement.

Jeeja, who did her postgraduation in social work and disability studies at Leeds in the UK, was to attend a conference in Goa. She narrates to Metro how humiliated she felt on being deplaned for a medical condition she has long overcome to become an educated and successful working woman.

I work for Ankur, an advocacy group through which we fight for the rights of people living with disabilities. I am a frequent visitor to Calcutta airport as I travel regularly to attend workshops and conferences across the country. I visit Delhi the most for work.

On Sunday morning, I was supposed to head for Goa on board SG 803, via Mumbai. It was a SpiceJet flight scheduled to take off at 8.05am and I reached the airport at 7am to check in. I got my boarding pass and informed the airline staff that I would need assistance to board the flight. A person escorted me to the plane and soon I was in my assigned seat. Little did I know what awaited me.

A few minutes later, I noticed the flight crew in a huddle and heard people murmuring my name and pointing at me. Then an airline employee came up to me and politely said: “You will have to accompany me.”

Startled as I was, I asked him the reason. He kept repeating I would need to come out of the aircraft to know the reason. By then, several members of the airline crew were hovering around me. Some of my co-passengers asked why they were bothering me, but they wouldn’t listen. They kept saying I would need to deplane.

“I am a regular flier. All I need is a little bit of assistance,” I tried to convince them, knowing that my condition was the only reason they could target me.

Soon I was seated in a car headed for the terminal. I was seething. I have never felt so insulted. Their sheer insensitivity made me cry.

I called up my senior at work, the executive director of the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy. She tried to convince the airline authorities that I was capable of travelling alone, only to be told that the pilot (Utprabh Tiwari) had a problem flying the aircraft with a “handicapped passenger” travelling unescorted.

The airline staff kept saying: “Very sorry, madam. The pilot insists he cannot take you on board alone.”

I found it nauseating, more so because this man did not have the courage to come up to me and say he had a problem accepting I could take care of myself.

I asked the airline personnel to either arrange for a refund or issue a new ticket to Goa. They gave me a ticket for the Monday morning flight.

The assistant general manager of SpiceJet in Calcutta told me he had spoken to his seniors and that he would make sure I wasn’t harassed and humiliated again.

But what about the pilot’s attitude towards me? His mindset reflects the mental block of society towards people like me. At least I knew where to go and voice my protest. I shudder to think what would happen to another person with disability who has not had similar exposure or opportunities as me.

The airline later issued a statement apologising for the inconvenience caused to the passenger. The airline expressed regret for the incident, and said that the matter will be investigated and action taken


Watch NDTV Video here


Kractivism-Gonaimate Videos

Protest to Arrest

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

Faking Democracy- Repression Anti- Nuke activists


Kamayaninumerouno – Youtube Channel


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