Srinagar: Muzafar Ahmad, 35, resident of Barzulla, who has an orthopaedic disability, had visited the Social Welfare Department in Old Secretariat Srinagar to enquire about a welfare scheme for the disabled but was let down by the lack of facilities at the complex for visitors like him.
Muzaffar, who has difficulties walking and climbing stairs, said there are no facilities to aid their movement. Even if the department provides wheelchairs, there aren’t any ramps or a lift.
“For just 1000 rupees they make us suffer, there is no facility for us, nor in this department nor in other places,” Muzafar said.
“I am having some issues, for that purpose I had to visit the department but I am not in a position to go to second floor where the concerned official sits. We don’t have any facility, nor the employees of the department help us,” he said.
Most of the state owned offices and facilities lack adequate facilities for the disabled.
The most that seems to have been done is to change the terminology from handicapped to differently-abled and specially-abled. Their plight hasn’t changed much. Even hospitals, universities, schools fail to facilitate the marginalized lot.
“You have to understand that building of Social Welfare department was constructed some 60 years ago, at that time there was no awareness about the disability,” an official of the department said.
Despite claims to work on facilitate the movement of specially-abled people, not much has been down on ground.
Nineteen-year-old Furkan Ahmad of Nishat had to drop out of college and get enrolled in private mode. He did his schooling from a school near to his home, but as the college was 10 kilometres away from his home he faced problems while travelling. He said he approached authorities to provide him a modified scooty, but they turned a blind eye to his needs.
As per the 2011 census, there are over 3.60 lakh people, nearly three percent of J&K population, having one or other disabilities – 2.8 are visually impaired, 0.38 lakh are physically challenged, 0.17 lakh have speech disability and 0.13 lakh have impairment.
According to the Disability Act 1998, the government has to adapt all compartments, buses and vessels in such a way as to permit easy access of disabled there.
“The government and the local authorities shall within the limit of their economic capacity and development install ramps in public buildings; make toilets for wheelchair users, Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators or lifts and ramps in hospitals, primary health centers and other medical care and rehabilitation institutes but nothing as such has been done in the departments, if any department have that is only in first floor and the official either sit on second floor or third to meet the official we have to go through stares which creates problem for us,” Abdul Rashid Bhat, President of Jammu and Kashmir Handicapped Association said.
The rules framed under the act, however, are being openly flouted.
“We have always been forgotten both by the government as well as the society, we have to face hardship in every department whether in hospital or in any administrative office, we have to wait in a long queue and often our turn never comes,” he added.