A society can be considered progressive only when it is holistically inclusive of all its members. Sadly, though, we fail to mete out the same courtesy to those with disabilities. A shameful example of our ignorance and insensitivity is the treatment Jeeja Ghosh received at the hands of SpiceJet. Four years ago, Jeeja Ghosh, a patient of cerebral palsy boarded a SpiceJet flight.
This was not the first time she was travelling by air. She was headed to an international conference in Goa. To her shock, the captain of the flight saw her as an apparent ‘threat’ to the flight. She was asked to show her boarding pass. The flight attendants then asked her to immediately de-board the flight. Ignoring her need to reach Goa on time and her repeated requests, she was forcibly made to de-board the plane. Having faced such public humiliation, Jeeja moved the matter to court.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered SpiceJet to pay ₹ 10 lakh as damages to her. Ghosh hails the judgement as a collective victory of the community with physical disabilities. While the judgement is definitely commendable, we should not overlook the larger issue at hand. That a community has to fight for equal rights and fair treatment reflects poorly on us, and shows how we have failed members of our society. Unfortunately, we currently provide a setting in which those with any disability are, at best, treated with pity, or, in other conditions, are subjected to outright discrimination.
We fail to look at a disability for what it is an impairment in the optimal functioning of an organ of the body, instead associate it with either pity, or ridicule, going to the extent of shying away from the very word. Such a backward and under-developed mentality does nothing but pose a hindrance to the amalgamation of those with physical and mental disabilities into society, as they rightfully deserve. They need neither our sympathy, nor our condescension. It is our duty, as decent human beings to stop pitying disabilities, or considering them inferior, and work towards closing the deficit created by the disability for the individual.
Those with disabilities merely need external support mechanisms to facilitate the activity they are deficient. For instance, an increase in the number of ramps, tactile markings on roads and walls alone will go a long way in alleviating the physical barriers faced by those with paraplegia or visual impairment. Support groups, help groups and specialised training centres can be created where professional attention is paid to those with disabilities, and they can be taught how to maximise their potential, while minimising the hurdle posed by the disability. This will facilitate their ability to pursue their goals and become contributory members of society, just like, or even better than the non-disabled.
All said, The Logical Indian applauds the decision of the Supreme Court. At the same time, we would like to congratulate Jeeja Ghosh for her victory, and hope we will soon be able to bring about the change that is long overdue.