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Sudha Chandran To PM Modi: I’m Asked To Remove Artificial Limb Every Time I Travel On Work, To Prove Disability

Sudha Chandran has recently spoken up about having to remove her artificial limb every time at security checks during travel, starting a conversation on the lack of inclusive mindsets and infrastructure for persons with disability.

Sudha Chandran has recently spoken up about having to remove her artificial limb every time at security checks during travel, starting a conversation on the lack of inclusive mindsets and infrastructure for persons with disability.

Sudha Chandran recently took to Instagram to share a personal and rather stressful experience that she has been made to go through as a person with disability. Her public post has since gathered massive support and has started a conversation on the lack of access and support for PWDs (persons with disability) in India.

The beloved and renowned actor and dancer has shared how every time she travels (she specifically mentions travel for professional purposes), she is forced to remove her artificial limb during security checks. Chandran went on to urge the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to address this inconvenient and traumatic situation. and even appealed for a senior citizen’s card.

Laws like the Persons with Disability Act, 2016 and other such laws that offer equal opportunities are a recent effort to stop the discrimination against PWD, and any such actions have been legally condemned. However this condemnation only seems to rest on paper, and never actually reach people’s mind.

Why is this so difficult to understand and make the necessary changes that are inclusive?

All pervasive ableism that excludes those with disability

Ableism is the default – most laws and almost all spaces are built for those without any disability, as are mindsets. What Chandran spoke about on her Instagram page has been the distressful and sad reality for most people with disability. And especially in a society like ours.

In the 1980s US feminists started using the term Ableism to refer to the discriminatory practices carried out against people with disability, via many modes including even mainstream language. The Indian state, as has the world beyond, indulged in ableism in almost all spheres of political, social and economic realms.

The Indian law for example, has been created by able- bodied people for the able- bodied people and to serve the able- bodied people. Laws were put in place to stop people with certain disabilities from contesting elections, which have fortunately been repealed recently.

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Children learn ableism early

Another site of rampant ableism is that of schools. Schools are where young impressionable minds interact with different people, and it is where the culture of ableism takes root.

The bullying of someone who has a disability of some sort is a common occurrence in schools, and often enabled by teachers who either do not know better or practice this discrimination themselves. This then perpetuate the action and language of ableism, which the children learn and carry forward.

Here starts the first ableist lesson where able bodied children are termed as ‘normal’ and children with disabilities are termed just the opposite.

A shameful lack of accessible infrastructure

With PWD being considered inferior than their able bodied counterparts, their social lives become hugely restricted. Shopping malls, cinema halls, hotels and housing complexes, more often than not, do not have proper provisions for ramp or brail reading.

Sudha Chandran has brought to light the shameful reality and condition of the infrastructure for PWD. People with disabilities are constantly put in distressing and humiliating situations to prove their disabilities, all in a very ableist framework. Here, the question arises –  why should people have to prove their disability, even for once?

Change that needs to come

For centuries, PWD have been kept invisible from the public eye. Some Bollywood films like Tare Zameen Par, Margarita With A Straw, Barfi and web series like the Netflix series Sex Education has been slowly but surely starting the conversation around disability rights and sensitization.

It is also high time that public places center their infrastructure around the convenience of people with disability. Sensitization towards this needs to begin as early as primary school levels so that children with disability do not grow up feeling like they are in any sense lesser than able bodied people.

And of course – political will. Higher authorities should make it compulsory for administrative, legal, and security personnel to go through rigorous sensitization workshops. Not like the token workshops that are prevalent, but with more anti bullying laws and stricter provisions and policies put in place for the same.

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