For disability rights activist Javed Abidi, 70 years of Independence is a time for introspection as he looks within and questions the essence of celebration when many sectors are still isolated or marginalised, the disability sector being one of them.
“As we celebrate 70 years of freedom from the British Raj, we must look within and ask ourselves as to what is the essence of our celebration? I am a wheelchair user, a fiercely-proud Indian, and yes I am ‘free’ but no I am not independent,” says Abidi when asked about what 70 years of Independence means to the disability sector. He goes on to explain that access is the key to this sector and hardly anything is accessible in India even though 70 years have gone past.
“Our buildings, schools, colleges, universities and offices; our transport, our trains and buses, even the aircraft, are all completely inaccessible by and large, and the issues have been highlighted several times,” says Abidi. “What about our blind citizens and folks who are deaf? Indian websites and books are completely inaccessible to people with visual disabilities,” he points out. “Therefore, every August 15, we must remind ourselves. India’s 70 million disabled citizens may be ‘free’ but they certainly are not ‘independent’. Atleast, not yet,” says Abidi.