Jun 1, 2010

Disability - a sharp contrast: East vs West

When I first stepped in Germany, within the very first week, I was quite shocked by the number of disabled people here! About every one in ten person had some kind of disability. And I couldn't even remember when was the last time I saw a person with a wheelchair on road back home in India. My initial reaction was, "Huh, what is wrong with the Germans? They are physically so fit and strong...then why is there so many people with disability?" Then after going back to room when I reflected back upon it, I realized, it can't be so different from back home in India. And guess what, I googled and yes, I was correct. The disability in India & Germany are quite similar.

So my next question was how come there is such a sharp contrast in visibility? To find the answer, I just had to keep my eyes open. Almost all the buses, trams and trains here in Germany have low floor, and often a sliding footboard comes out to connect with the footpath. And there are open space right in front of the door where wheelchairs & trolleys, so that one can keep it there and have nice seat beside. Also there are handrails beside the doors to make the movement swifter. And when you are with a wheelchair and you want to get down, just press the wheelchair button, so that the driver knows you will need more time than the rest. Simple, isn't it? And there are washrooms (called WC here) for physically disabled persons almost everywhere there is one for others. So movement is no longer a problem for anyone.

Just think about the situation back home in India. Is it that difficult to introduce such buses and trains? Is it necessary to have such a narrow gate for all the trains? Just simple awareness, that's all it takes to make the road easier for the 10% of the population. But I know, that is not going to happen, because there is no political motivation behind that. There would be 27% reservations for OBCs in premier institutes, as OBCs form a large part of the vote bank. And then people will fight to claim their 'backward' status. But the disabled persons? They can't even go to the polling booth, so what's point of doing something for someone who can't even vote?