Guwahati: At least 21 former students of Shishu Sarothi, a voluntary organisation working towards the development of differently-abled children, interacted with media persons on Friday to highlight their plight and the social stigma they still face in this day and age.

They urged the media to carry their voices to the masses to sensitise them so that those who are differently-abled can live life normally and not be weighed down by social stigma, which has been haunting them for years.

During the session, the children discussed the challenges faced by them in their daily lives. They also shared their experiences, highlighting the hurdles they come across while participating in activities or events along with abled persons.

Victor Doungel, who has just completed his master’s degree, narrated his ordeal when he went to get his COVID-19 vaccination.

“I faced a lot of problems when I went for my COVID-19 vaccination. I am a wheelchair user and there was no ramp at the place. This should be a priority in public places. Schools, colleges, banks and many other important public places do not have ramps so they become inaccessible for wheelchair users like us. I would like to send a message to everyone accept us the way we are. We are a part of society and no different,” said Doungel.

Silsila Das, project coordinator at Bijoyini, a network of women with disabilities, shared her unpleasant experience while recently taking a cab ride with one of her friends while she was returning home from Shishu Sarothi.

“The cab driver was extremely rude towards me and said that people with disabilities should not roam around but sit at home. He even refused to give me the ride and cancelled the trip although the ride was confirmed. This attitude towards people like us should change and the media should sensitise the masses on the problems we face,” said Das.

“We have been facing a lot of discrimination from certain sections of society since our childhood but today we thought of sharing it. The government has been coming up with schemes for us but we request for more facilities to survive in society,” she added.

Jayprakash Sharma, who has completed his master’s degree from Guwahati’s Cotton College shared his experiences of what all he had to go through while applying for the Unique Disability ID (UDID).

Sharma said, “Information like the process of applying for UDID and other government schemes for people with disabilities should be readily available and accessible. We want people to understand, accept, and include as part of society. We are capable of doing everything and have similar rights like others.”

Economic and social exclusion are part of the daily lives of people with disabilities. It is a breach of human rights and a major development challenge.

Children with disabilities in India are subject to bullying in schools and institutions, they are deprived of opportunities, and are often ostracized.

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