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17 adults with autism were allegedly denied entry in a private swimming pool due to “objection from other members”. When will the discrimination stop and acceptance begin?
We are not unfamiliar with the fact that in India, disability is something that people generally don’t talk about and in fact, many often try to maintain a ‘safe’ distance from people who have any disability or developmental issue.
This recent incident in Dehradun is a clear representation of this stigma. In Varada Tennis and Swimming Academy, Dehradun, 17 adults with autism were allegedly harassed and denied entry in the pool. This was done on the grounds of ‘objection from other members’.
The adults belonged to Arunima – a residential centre for people with autism. According to the Arunima staff the adults had each paid a full monthly fee of Rs, 2,000. Hence, still not allowing them is nothing other than utter discrimination.
According to Aparna Das, Founder and Director of Arunima, there were many complaints from other pool users. Hence, management demanded that the group come at a different time. They asked them to have personal escorts. They even demanded that some of the adults would only be allowed access to the kiddie pool along with other arbitrary requirements.
Das said, “They shifted our slot from 12:30 to 01:30 pm to which we objected, because it would have clashed with the members’ lunch.”
Even today, many parents dissuade their children from hanging out with children who have autism or other developmental disorder, because of the fear of ‘becoming like them’. There is this stigma that hanging out with such people will make you also ‘catch’ their problem. Moreover, many of us are also simply uncomfortable with such people and refuse to learn more and overcome our discomfort.
This discrimination has formed a sense of superiority in the society which sees any such disorder or disability as something inferior. The patients are disregarded, ridiculed and not given the empathy that they deserve.
As long as we isolate people who are not ‘normal’ in our estimation, we will continue to be wary of them, and such incidents will recur. It is time to ask how accepting we really are.
Image via Unsplash, for representational purposes only
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