Stephen William Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA is an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, author and Director of Research at the Center for Theoretical Cosmology within the University of Cambridge.

Who can call the person shown in the image, yes! I’am talking about Stephen Hawking, the great and learnt scientist of modern world, disabled?

Disability is a relative term in so far as different cultures define their norms of being and doing differently. Conceptions of disability are therefore highly contextual and subjective. In south Asia, even social deviance or female infertility is considered by some as serious social impairment. The international classification of functioning, health and disability (WHO 1980) defines disability as any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being; this is the definition of disability adopted by government of India.

The term physically handicapped has been used in literature in various ways i.e. physically handicapped, crippled, orthopedically handicapped or otherwise health impaired. In other words it can be said that any person having a disability is handicapped.
Although there are different versions of disability, there is a final element which overpowers all of them in one or the other way and that is ‘social judgement’. A person is truly qualified as handicapped only when he/she is labeled by others.

Disability can be perceived through two models i.e medical and social model .Medical model views disability as problems of persons directly caused by diseases, trauma, or other health conditions, whereas the social model sees the issue of disability mainly as a socially created problem and thus full integration of such differently-abled people into society is the only remedy according to it. In this model disability is not an attribute of an individual but rather a complex collection of conditions, many of which are created by the social environment.

Challenges are twofold: one there is non-seriousness of agencies in implementing the schemes laid down by government and second lack of awareness on the part of differently-abled regarding the schemes. Central government has laid down certain provisions for disabled employees: special disability leave not more than 24 months ,10 days extra leave for attending seminars, conferences ,and attending trainings, quarters for disabled employees ,transport allowance, and special allowance for child care for women with disabilities to name a few.

Even some states give incentive award for marriage between disabled and non-disabled person (not implemented in Jammu and Kashmir).Unlike many other countries the government of India has given employment to disabled people special considerations. In 1977, the government of India reserved 3% of vacancies in identified jobs in government and public sector in ‘C’ and ‘D’ groups, for persons with locomotor, visual, or speech and hearing disabilities. ‘The 1995 Persons with disabilities Act, extended reservation to ‘A’ and ‘B’ groups. Mentally disabled persons are excluded from this.

There are many challenges and barriers for disabled persons. Challenges and barriers are all around and it is very difficult to be normal, when there is nothing in their favour.
Unemployment and education are the major challenges for disabled persons. According to ‘ILO’ the level of unemployment among disable persons is two to three times as high as for other persons and in many developing countries, where unemployment is wide spread, the unemployment prospects of disabled persons are very minimal or nonexistent.

Even seen from educational perspective the condition is even worse. Uneven roads, full of mud, stones and holes are anathema to tricycles and crutches .Travel by bus is like going to space or moon. Drivers would not let them come in the bus as they take a long time for that. Lack of facility in schools, colleges, universities makes them more disabled. If there is pick and drop facility for them, they may well reach in time and without the psychological fear of going to schools, colleges and universities.
They are bound to compete with others which results into their undue exploitation.

Societal attitude towards them is of neglect, rejection, denying of and defying their intellect and intelligence.
Situations even become worse when they have to marry. Parents are not willing to marry their daughters or sons to disabled persons, without taking into consideration their position or intelligence (it may vary in different cases ).Reasons for this are the fear of parents that such person will not be able to keep their daughter happy, moreover such persons are seen sexually weak.
Persons with defects, physical or mental were not cared for in prehistoric times.

For much of human history in western society, a person with disability was considered as burden on others – a drain on resources who put nothing back. A family’s sense of honour was thought to be compromised. They would be spurned by the community. The expense and time of providing for a disabled member would reduce the family’s ability to live up to community standards. There was great pressure to institutionalize a person with a disability (once the option existed), to allow death from an illness, or even end his life by euthanasia (2007). To early Greek and Romans, people with disabilities were a source of humour. People with mental impairments were kept by the royal courts for entertainment. Lepers were kept out of city walls and forced to gather in isolated colonies .Leprosy reached epidemic proportions in the 13 and 14 century with 19000 leprosariums in Europe by the year 1200.

In Indian context the situation was no better. The initial attempts at educating disabled persons were made in the last two decades of 19th century with the establishment of first school for hearing impaired in Mumbai in 1885, followed by the first school for the visually impaired in Amritsar in 1887.

In a nut shell, it can be said that disability is wholly the product of social exclusion and marginalization. Focus of attention, should be, for example, upon disabled social environments and inadequate nature of the social response to impairments, and not upon disabled conditions or people with disabilities.

Written by Deepak Sharma, a prominent ‘Disability Rights Activist and Lecturer in School Education Deptt. Jammu and Kashmir.
Deepak ji can be contacted on 8803746285.

Lifepotter.com greatly and sincerely feels thankful to Deepak ji for taking out some precious time from his busy schedule and penning down such great thoughts to honor those for whom our apathetic and unconcerned society has gone emotionally, socially, politically and intellectually bankrupt.

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