Disability movement in India
Disability Movement in India
I had the opportunity to meet Mr. TMN Deepak who is a leading disability rights activist here in Chennai. It was so kind of him to pay me a visit amidst his extremely busy life. In my sheltered life with aspirations of activism, it was very grounding to hear from someone that has dedicated a lot of his life to create space for this issue to be discussed in the mainstream. It was a healthy dose of reality to hear about the struggles to create even small incremental changes.
The life of a person with a disability is extremely challenging in India. It appears that the basic physical accessibility concerns in public places are still not widely resolved. We might be a long way away from universal access to alternate communication tools for non speakers like me. There seem to be very few voices in this area.
We had a good conversation on how it is difficult to move the disability movement from a charity mode to a full fledged rights based movement given some of the historical context around how disability is looked at. It was also eye opening to hear how different disability groups compete for the limited resources that are available without much coordination. Finally it was instructive to hear how some of the small wins are celebrated as a victory for the individual thereby losing the focus and an opportunity to create awareness on the challenges they had to overcome. This lack of awareness and education is the biggest impediment to moving this to a right based movement.
While the road ahead for a young disability activist can be daunting, I drew a lot of strength and solidarity from this conversation and what Mr. Deepak had to overcome. I am now more inspired to meet more such activists and learn more.