By Our Reporter
SHILLONG: “We may have found a cure for most evils; but we have found no remedy for the worst of them all, the apathy of human beings,” says Helen Keller.
Expressing the same feeling, the deaf and blind people under the banner of Association of Challenged People, Meghalaya on Thursday lamented the indifferent attitude showed by the State Government towards them in terms of providing education, scholarships and the likes.
This association, which was started in 2003, caters to as many as 650 registered members above the age of 18 years. It has been providing assistance and working for empowerment the deaf and blind people of the state.
“We have no reason to be angry just because we are born different but what hurts the most is the fact that we are being considered as children of a lesser God,” said the president of the Association, Melip Sangma.
Citing their problems, Sangma, a visually impaired woman, said, “The government must make a special provision to protect and ensure that people like us get the same opportunities as everyone else.”
Observing the Helen Keller Day on Thursday, members of the Association expressed their eagerness to be well-educated despite their disabilities like Heller Keller, an American educator who became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.
“The blind and deaf children are willing to study but in our case, the mode of teaching is slightly different, of which we need materials to teach them. However, the same are not available in the state and had to be procured from outside. And for this, the funds are drawn from foreign sponsors and the government didn’t play any role in providing the same,” a disabled teacher, Ferdinand Lyngdoh, rued.
Stating that an amount of almost Rs 40-50 thousand is spent on procuring the study materials from outside, Lyngdoh said much could be done to help these children if enough support is provided by the government.
Mentioning that the government only recognizes people with multiple disabilities but not the blind and deaf, Lyngdoh said “Even though we fall in the same category, yet it should be understood that there are many kinds of disabilities and the government should identify them and provide the needed support.”
Narrating his story using sign language, a 17-year-old blind and deaf boy, Lumlang Kshiar expressed his willingness to study and live a normal life like every other children while at the same time, expect equality, support, love and care. Translating Khsiar’s sign language, Ferdinand Lyngdoh said “I didn’t go to school in my village as there was no such special school until I met a member of this association who brought me to Shillong and got me admitted in Bethany Society. I am happy to be associated with this school and interact with the other children.”
Meanwhile, pointing out the problems faced by people with disability in the society every day, a young girl Celene Lawai said that they can adjust physical barriers but attitude or indifference barrier is something which they can’t cope with adding that there were instances especially in rural areas where the parents would consider their own children with disabilities as a curse.
“Sometimes, when people stare at us or don’t even want to be close to us, we feel bad and it does hurt our sentiment because we are also human being and we do have feelings,” she said while stressing on the need to create awareness among the people.
The association has urged the government to address their grievances by ensuring equal education, equal rights, equal opportunities to work and to consider them as equal beneficiaries of all government schemes.