Paving Way Through Hardships

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In India even today, ‘Disability’ is shrouded with apprehension, myths and misconceptions. People with disabilities face problems to survive and have to endure a lot of ordeal to get absorbed in the society.  According to census 2011, there are 2.68 crore people with disabilities in India and the figures certainly point out that they represent a noteworthy proportion of the population. But it’s poignant to see that their wants and needs are yet to be addressed

To throw more light on this sensitive issue, Coffee Bytes spoke to Mr. Bhagirathi Panda, Secretary of ‘The Institute for Helping the Disabled’, on his vast expertise on rehabilitation of children with multiple disabilities since last many years.

Speaking candidly on this delicate but very important issue that is normally a taboo for discussion he said, “A major growing concern not only  in India but globally is addressing issues of disparity and inequality in the area of rehabilitation of persons with multiple disabilities. We have to recognise the sheer magnitude of the problem which requires the Government and the voluntary sector to work together hand in hand.”

He further said that, “When clinics call seriously disturbed children ‘intreatable’ and regular schools turn them down as ‘uneducable’, most parents have little  or no choice but to send their child to a mental hospital, which is a heart breaking decision or bring them up in isolation at home, where they are an exhausting burden of sorrow and worry for the entire family. It is usually the parents who suffer from a sense of guilt or depression.

Our society has otherwise no inhibitions to clinch the western culture with its broad minded openness but when it comes to these children who are struggling every single day of their life to achieve simple actions like climbing stairs or eating food independently, their perception is biased and old fashioned. They refuse to accept and acknowledge the fact that irrespective of the disability every child has a unique ability that needs to be unearth.”

Mr. Panda further shared that, “We do not think of the immense potential in them, which could be harnessed for their betterment and that of the society at large. It should be appreciated that disability is not inability. We must know that the disabled are differently able. We usually forget that the disabled, who have different abilities can be gathered together to become a powerful work force and an asset to the nation. This would ensure that those with disabilities can live, work and enrich the quality of their lives. Denial of adequate attention would not only hamper the growth of the child, it would also become a source of anxiety to the society in future.”

Talking about his institution, which is a boon in disguise for the parents as well as the children he revealed that, “This Institute for Helping the Disabled, was founded by my father late Jagannath Panda, the 1st Deputy Secretary (Technical) Specialised in visual and hearing impairment, due to his interest in helping the handicapped of all categories in the state. The Institute for helping the Disabled, was established on 3rd December, 1995 under the leadership of Late Nandini Satapathy, Ex- Chief Minister of Odisha with a vision to alleviate the sufferings of the disabled in the way they need and to the best of our ability.”

The concept of this Institute is to bring out an ideal solution to counteract the misconceptions persisting in the society, early identification, referrals, motivating the demotivated family members and last but not the least, creating more awareness to increase people’s participation in prevention of multiple disabilities in the long run. The institute has a mission to offer diagnostic and therapeutic facilities to all corners of Odisha in the field of Mental Health utilizing the advances in information technology and to be the nodal centre.

At present the institute runs a school for the multiple disabled children called ‘ASWASANA’, which was started on 6th August 1998.There are 65 day-scholar children of different categories of multiple disabilities and learning disabled who are being taught various skill training using a holistic approach. Twelve specially trained educators and three part time teachers train the children in Music, Dance, Art and Craft .

Sharing his future plans Mr Bhagirathi divulged that they are soon planning to establish a HRD Centre for Manpower development on Multiple Disabilities to create more opportunities for children. The Institute has very ambitious objectives to help the disabled according to their needs and to ameliorate their suffering as well as bring them to the mainstream of the society.

So the next time you see a differently abled child, do not talk behind the back but take a step forward to talk to the child and the child’s parents with a promise to bring a smile on their faces. Kudos to Mr Bhagirathi and his dedicated team to try to change the lives of these children and their parents.

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