The Pain of Being Physically or Mentally Challenged in Pakistan

In this world everyone is striving for perfection, and yet there are many who are falling behind from our relentless rat race for existence. Being a physically or mentally challenged person in Pakistan is a very painful existence because society finds it exceedingly hard to accept people who are a bit different, who need a little special care. They are usually shunned to the point that they feel alienated.

The first issue though is that of access. Less than 10% of buildings, restaurants and public places in Pakistan have proper ramps and facilities for disabled people. Erum Sangji, an apparel sourcing agent in Karachi, speaks on the lack of access issue in reference to her niece who is autistic:

Furhan Hussain commented on Twitter:

@FurhanHussain: Please note how schools/universities inculcate zero awareness in youth by not providing ramps and accessibility options in campuses.

Disabled protesters set a wheelchair on fire during demonstrations against social welfare cuts

Disabled protesters set a wheelchair on fire during demonstrations against social welfare cuts and demand special job quotas during International Disability Day. Hyderabad, Pakistan. Image by Rajput Yasir. Copy right Demotix (3/12/2011)

Bisma Askari, an architect working in Karachi, said:

bismAskari: Even basic facilities such as ramps are at a minimum, but are made with the wrong proportions. A wheelchair access ramp should have a ratio of 1:10 therefore making it comfortable for wheelchair use (an example of this is the pedestrian bridges at sharah e faisal. Only now do places like dolmen mall and port grand have wheelchair access but something like the flooring at port grand is not convenient for wheelchairs as well as there is no access to the shops / mall as there are steps.

Samra Muslim said:

@samramuslim: @faisalkapadia with older people it's like ‘why do u need to be out – u r old and dying’ … Sad mindset we have …

Another huge stumbling block in the lives of physically and mentally challenged people in Pakistan is the social stigma attached to them as well a lack of proper educational facilities.

Taimur Mirza, an adventurer and off-road enthusiast who is raising a disabled 23 year son, Shehryar, speaks on this issue:

Ameenah remarked on the non participation of the state:

@ameenahtobani: haven't seen any facility for them they really feel handicapped no effort from state to make them feel indpndnt!

Faizan Lakhani chimed in about the lack of facilities:

@faizanflkhani: We don't have dedicated car park area for them. No special arrangements in public transports. #gv #Pakistan

This is not the only chapter in this book though. Despite all of these issues and hurdles, disabled citizens of Pakistan have been busy striving to achieve success with great merit in fields such as sports and education.

The Paralympics Association was founded in 1998 in Pakistan, and had trained athletes with disabilities to achieve the amazing result of 16 gold, 19 silver and 20 bronze medals in various sporting events around the world. The video below is a small reminder of their achievement:

There are several organizations and NGOs in Pakistan working for the rights of physically and mentally disabled people. Schools such as Manzil, Autism Institute, Dar ul Sakoon in Karachi and the Rising Sun school, and the Thevenet Centre in Lahore are also included in this list. These are just a few examples in this fight against injustice and humiliation. One of the most recent achievements in this field is a remarkable rickshaw provided by the NOWPDP, which can be controlled by hands alone.

Imran Ghanchi at the Unique Pakistan blog talks about the special rickshaw for disabled people:

“This rickshaw has better features than the one I had,” explained Ghanchi. “I am encouraging other disabled people to become drivers.” He is buoyed by the backing of the network.

Zafar Ullah Khan, a disabled person aged 40, writes in his blog:

The Government of Pakistan should at least take concrete steps to provide government jobs to educated special people. Those who have fake degrees reach the parliament. We have genuine degrees but are deprived of our right. It is also the clear violation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which has been signed by 153 countries including Pakistan, which on 5th of July, became one of 107 countries to have ratified it. The most fundamental principle of the convention is to change society attitude towards person with disabilities by making it more inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based.

The government has taken some steps such as the formation of a separate NIC (national id card) for the differently abled people in this country, giving them the chance to at least apply for some of the benefits they should get by default. However the integration of such individuals in the society at an acceptable level is a fight which they and the concerned citizens of this nation are fighting everyday.

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