“We need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom, the empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old – and that’s the criterion by which I’ll be selecting my judges.” – Barack Obama
A rather shocking and sad story was heard by this author from a mother about her child who was raped by four individuals in Colombo. The victim was an autistic boy who needed special care and attention, who found confidence and happiness by finding work for the first time which eventually turned to a horrific story. The four accused have been arrested and one bailed out. We hope law and order will punish the perpetrators who has done this heinous crime. An online petition has been written for support by the civil society “ Stand for Ajith” (https://www.facebook.com/StandforAjith?fref=nf). The world that we live has this ugly side which needs to be addressed by law and justice. This is the society we live in, this is the society our kids are going to grow up in. It is our responsibility to make a change. Stand united and fight against abuse. Differently abled people who need special care should be given more attention, facilities and more importantly acceptance.
In many societies differently abled people go through many obstacles and it’s the individual society that has to provide happiness and acceptance for them. As human beings we should be more compassionate towards differently abled because we have the brain and capacity to understand not to hurt or abuse them as the case of Ajith.
With the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of people with Disabilities in 2006 by many nations,Sri Lanka has signed the Protection of Rights Bill in 2006. Although the policies are in place the society needs to be educated, and schools / workplaces should encourage positive attitude towards people with special needs.
One of the amazing individuals Gina Badenoch from her workshop in Mexico who has been teaching blind people how to take photographs for the past seven years is a great example of individuals from the society providing opportunity to differently abled people. “It is a way to develop ability through disability” explains Gina. She did a program in Myanmar during the Young Global Leaders Forum. “The camera can become a connection for blind people to the outside world,” she says. Badenoch took 35 cameras and visited monasteries and nunneries nearby Yangon spending time with young nuns, monks and people with various disabilities to form “a spiritual link” with the country. Not only the Government, Individuals from civil society like Gina could play a pivotal role to provide assistance to differently abled people. We should recognize such individuals in our own society and help them in their cause as it’s a great deed what they do to their society.
Employer organizations should be taught of importance of including people with disability to improve disability practices at work place. Creating an inclusive work place in Sri Lanka is essential. A blind girl who had difficulty finding work who was excellent at her research work and writing was recruited and given opportunity for the first time at the Government Research Institute last year and she did her work really well and her articles were published by media. The staff gave kindness and made her feel happy at work. Inclusiveness and attention for differently abled people should be considered and Government policies should address these important individuals. Public Buildings and hotels without any disability access should be clearly given a notice, star ratings striped off and warned if they don’t provide the necessary facilities. The home for elders and disability around the country needs much more facility than the present state of most of these places. The new vehicle permits for newly elected members to Parliament will follow soon after the elections, newly elected parliamentarians will bring luxury vehicles following the tradition by their predecessors foot steps, few of the value of such permits could uplift the homes for disability and provide better facility to all who live there. A decent budget should be allocated for differently abled people to provide the necessary facilities.
A society which is not inclusive and provide opportunity to all will not prosper, the politicians and responsible individuals need to take action rather than talk. This situation is similar in our neighboring country with more than 20 million differently abled people, according to a report released in 2011 by Equal Rights Trust “Research has revealed patterns of widespread torture and inhuman treatment against people with disabilities throughout India,”. As many disturbing stories like Ajith emerge, the society needs to support such individuals to fight for their rights deprived and support them, this is the sign of empathy and compassion we could show towards such victims of abuse.