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     A social battle for warrior on the wheelchair

Chandigarh, December 3rd 2008, Express News Service

For over two decades, Bipin Kaushal, a lecturer in Electronics at the Punjab Engineering College (PEC), Chandigarh, has witnessed the problems of the physically challenged and society’s sensitivity, or the lack of it, in dealing with their issues.

From a victim of an ailment as severe as muscular dystrophy to becoming an opinion holder about the rights of people like him, the 45-year-old wheelchair-bound Kaushal sums up the expectations of the physically challenged from the society in two simple words: accessibility and sensitivity.

“Day to day life becomes tough as most of the public places and buildings are inaccessible to people with disabilities,” he tells Newsline.

As the world observes World Disability Day on December 3, the simple observations of Kaushal make sense.

“Visiting my director’s office is a Herculean task for me, as there are only stairs and no ramp. I don’t go there, there is no option,” adds Kaushal while reiterating that it is not the college’s fault but rather the prevailing insensitivity towards the needs of the challenged.

He adds, “As an academician, I feel lack of facilities in educational institutes is the most disturbing, especially when I see physically challenged students being carried on the back of other students.”

Society’s attitude towards the physically challenged is best gauged by someone like Kaushal, who joined PEC in the pink of his health but restricted limbs movement gripped him only after 5 years in the service.

“Small things mattered initially. For example, with the progression of the disease, first floors became inaccessible to me and lack of ramps or lifts began to bother me. At college, most of my classrooms and labs were shifted to the ground floor,” recalls Kaushal.

With his official room allotted at the first floor, the lecturer has requested the authorities several times for a room at the ground floor.

“The request is being processed, I am told,” he says. The problem is not limited to the University campus only. Movement in banks is another problem area, cites the lecturer, as he narrates how most of the branches are inaccessible with a narrow passage for the wheelchair-bound.

“Even most of the green belts and public parks, like the Terrace Garden in Sector 33, are not accessible to me as I cannot go in with my wheelchair,” adds Kaushal.

An active member of the Indian Association of Muscular Dystrophy (IAMD), the lecturer has been available for all seeking his help.


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