English: Photograph of Shyam Benegal in his of...

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~ 100 plus women on wheelchairs call for equitable rights for all ~

~ Over 500 people, from commoners to socialites to celebrities and artists to activists participate in solidarity march ~

Mumbai – 7th March, 2012: The city of Mumbai today got together to pay a unique tribute to the spirit of womanhood on the eve of International Women’s Day as it came out in large numbers to support the cause of women with disability who bear the brunt of discrimination in the society. Over 100 women with disability on wheelchair were joined by 500 other Mumbaikars – common people, socialites, celebrities, activists etc. in a solidarity protest organised by the ADAPT Rights Group with the organisation ADAPT – Able Disable All People Together (formerly Spastics Society of India). It was a sight the city of Mumbai had perhaps never seen.

What sparked the protest was the offloading of a teacher and disability activist from Kolkata, Jeeja Ghosh (who has cerebral palsy) on the 20th of February as she was ironically coming to a conference on inclusion of people with disability into mainstream society from a SpiceJet flight. Two days later another woman, Anjlee Agarwal (with muscular dystrophy) was also thrown off a Jet Airways flight.

“There can be no true independence for woman as long as people don’t have the right to travel. Jeeja Ghosh’s case clearly shows the pathetic, apartheid like condition women with disability face in India. How can we celebrate Woman’s Day when this is happening to almost 15% Indians who have some or the other form of disability,” said Malini Chib, Chairman – ADAPT Rights Group and Trustee – ADAPT and a friend of Jeeja Ghosh.

The view on the promenade outside Jazz By The Bay near Churchgate Station was one of euphoria and inspiration. Over 100 women on wheelchair and hundreds of other supporters held placards of solidarity that read “You Don’t See What We Can Do, Who’s Disabled – We or You”, “Women on Wheels are Women of Steel” and “SpiceJet, Jet Airways: Shame On Your Ways”, “Stop Discrimination In The Name of Disability” etc.

Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder-Chairperson – ADAPT, explained the need for the solidarity protest, “It is shocking that women with disability – be they with hearing, visual or physical impairment – are left out of almost everything, including women’s movements. Hence, a lot of violence goes on with them without anything ever being done against it. So we decided to come out and tell the public directly how women with disability have been left out.”

She added, “There is legislation in the country but despite this Jeeja Ghosh was thrown out of a SpiceJet flight and a few days later Anjlee Agarwal from a Jet Airways flight. What is the point of legislation if there is no enforcement? There are many such cases of violation that have been noted in the country. Unless punitive action is taken against the airlines or anyone else discriminating against people based on disability, there won’t be any change. We also hope to get the aviation ministry’s notice by this protest.”

Dr. Ketna Mehta, Editor and Associate Dean – Research, Welingkar’s Institute and Founder Trustee of Nina Foundation that works for rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injury believes that this kind of awareness of people is very important for a country like India. “What you see here – all of us in wheelchairs – is only a small microcosm of people with disability. A majority of them are indoors and never come out,” she said, adding, “All constitutionally granted rights to a woman also apply to a woman with disability. But a great gap is observed in reality as highlighted by incidents like that Jeeja Ghosh. Hence such rallies are important. All of us need to come together to bridge this gap.”

The protest saw involvement of people from all walks of life from commoners to glitterati and artists. Filmmaker Shyam Benegal, said, “Everyone has some or the other disability, visible or hidden. Yet why is it that we consider people with a visible disability to be so different from us? Why do we consider them as not being ‘normal’? Why don’t we realise that the idea of ‘normality’ is an arbitrary and meaningless one as no one is totally normal. The need is to see that people are sensitised to the needs of people with disability for they are trying to lead a meaningful life as well. It is important to ensure that they are not relegated to dark corners of our society but are part of the mainstream alongside all of us.”

A leaflet highlighting the discrimination women with disability face, both as women and as a person with disability, demanded strong punitive action against those that discriminate on grounds of disability like SpiceJet & Jet Airways, enforcement of mandatory sensitisation programs on disabilities for modes of transportation, women with disability to be included in women’s organisations & movements etc.

A resolution passed by the ADAPT Rights Group states: A Resolution was unanimously adopted that exclusion of Women with Disabilities from any organisation is a discrimination against a section of the population and of Article 15 of the Constitution. It was also resolved that in any reservation for women in any institution in the country a Disabled Woman has proportionate representation. We strongly condemn the inhumane and barbaric way Disabled Women are being treated by the Airlines – We want Justice for them from the Government.


About Adapt:

ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together), formerly ‘The Spastics Society of India, was founded by Padmashri Dr. Mithu Alur in 1972. From a special school with only three children, it has grown to become one of the foremost non-profit organizations in India providing services like assessment, therapy, counseling, inclusive education, skill training and job placement to thousands of children and young adults with disability and their families. Today ADAPT has evolved to become a seminal organization that interacts with national and international organizations, public & private sector bodies and government agencies at all levels to influence policy changes that impact marginalized groups across the country. In 2012 ADAPT is celebrating four decades of serving the nation through various programs.

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