Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect


In one of the overseas offices of my company, where probably a maximum of 20 people work, they have two toilets to service the office. One of them is meant for the disabled even though the office has no disabled employees. The folks working there told me that apart from complying with legal requirements and all that, the office did not want to make modifications in his architecture, at some future date, should they need to hire a disabled person making him or her possibly squirm with embarrassment. They wanted their place to be open and welcoming to the disabled, whenever they might turn up, be it in the distant future. 


This reminds me of the Biblical story of the prodigal son where the father is ready and welcoming long before the returning prodigal son is any where on the horizon. He is always included in every thing and in every plan, even though absent from the scene. I suppose that is the truest picture of inclusion. Though the son is still absent , though the disabled person is still not present , I still think of him or her , include him or her in my plans, designs and thinking , so that one day when they come , they can merge seamlessly into the picture because the frame has always been ready to include them. 


In our attitude to the disabled and most other disadvantaged, we have been welfare driven rather than inclusion driven in our approach. Simply this – inclusion is embracing, welfare is condescending. The inclusive approach has as its paradigm that the disabled are part of us, our family, our society, our community and our hearts, plans; budgets are large enough to include them. Whether they are actually at our door step today or not, we are ready to receive them, to welcome them. 


The welfare approach, on the contrary says that, that the disabled (and other disadvantaged) are among us, some how they are here and though they don’t really belong and are in many ways different, we need to do some thing about them driven by partly by pity and partly by the nuisance value that they can be if we don’t do some thing for them. Welfare therefore some how demeans the self worth of the person receiving it even as it tries in its own clumsy way to help. The inclusion approach on the other hand infuses dignity and self esteem because it does not see the disabled as a burden to be borne, but as a resource yet to be explored. 


In India, we have a Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment which looks at issues of disability. It has done some good work. The National Policy for Persons with Disabilities has been adopted under is aegis and it addresses issues relating to social security, disability pension and education. The Government has approved the signing and ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability.  The Ministry has recently released a ‘Report to the People 2004-07’ on Social Justice and Empowerment.  The report was released by the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh on 22nd May, 2007. 


In the otherwise excellent report available on the Press Information Bureau Website , there is a section titled” Welfare of the Differently Abled” which talks about all that has been done for them. Which is in some ways is a lot. The only problem is that welfare is disempowering. Inclusion is empowering. So why is the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment administering a raft of antiquated welfare schemes like providing subsidized motorized tricycles(better done by the Rotary Clubs) instead of pioneering inclusive , embracive and integrative policies, which the government alone can draft and legislate ? Now will some one of our honorable members of Parliament please raise this question in the House? 

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