By: Surekha Dhaleta
Shimla: To commemorate the 128th birth anniversary of Helen Keller, a function was organised here by the Blind Persons Association of Himachal, yesterday, with support rendered by Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (SDRS) and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited.
Keller overcame her handicap of visual impairment and deafness through sheer determination and became instrumental in setting institutes over 36 countries across the world for differently-abled people.
More than 80 visually impaired people form the 12 districts of Himachal, and students from neighbouring states and social activists gathered at the confluence.
The issue that surfaced very prominently through the discussions was the government’s apathy towards visually impaired and differently-abled people in Himachal. An example of which was cited by visually impaired people during the meet that none of the high officials from the Welfare Department had made an initiative to join them on the occasion.
Another issue that was highlighted by SDRS chairman, Ajai Srivastava was the lack of sensitivity towards disability related issues in Himachal and ignorance and lack of knowledge of rules and regulations in the government department. He lamented the ignorance of the Welfare Department and University officials about provisions like the State Disability Policy and the provision of extra timings for visually impaired students during examinations.
President of Blind Person Association, Shobhu Ram, apprised the gathering about the different problems visually impaired are facing in Himachal. It is however important to mention here that Shobu Ram has waged a long battle for the rights of visually impaired in Himachal, as he along with other people has waged the longest dharna of 2 years in front of Himachal Secretariat.
Shobhu Ram discerned some of the problems and issues of differently-abled like ‘there has been a backlog of posts in various departments in Himachal’ He urged a quick permanent recruitment drive to be initiated for the differently-abled in Himachal.
The nature of employment should be decided for the differently-abled, as topography in Himachal acts as a major deterrent for mobility. At the ministerial and department level meets when rules and regulations are being formulated for differently able people a representative from the differently-abled fraternity should be included, he suggested. Shobhu Ram also pointed out the deplorable state of schools for differently abled children in Himachal, and the lack of basic infrastructure and paucity of funds.