Hello, I am Sandeep Kharat aged 35. I am married and have a 2 year old son. I am a Science Graduate from Wilson College. I work as DTP Operator cum Office Assistant in Cipla Cancer Palliative Care Centre, Warje, Pune. I was affected by polio at an early age of 1 yr. just after I was given oral dose of polio in the morning and in the evening I was showing signs of polio. Both of my legs are affected by polio and I use crutches to walk.
As a child and an adult I have learned to live with the disability and to find ways to overcome whatever problems that come. I am by nature a lively person and I think this is what counts. If one is lively he will be happy most of the time. It’s mental attitude that helps to overcome any disability. There can be people willing to help but only if you are ready.
As a child affected with polio, though most of my childhood memories are cheerful ones I had my dark moments due to this disability. I am very fond of playing games and unfortunately I could not play the games. Therefore, I used to spend lot of time watching the children play games and wishing I could also play. A common problem that people with disability face is the teasing they receive mainly from children. One has to learn to overlook it. Saddest part is that even when the children are making fun of disable children and sometimes even adults, the parents of these children, if watching, hardly make any effort to educate them. This is particularly the case with uneducated people. Of course this is not true only for the children, many a times even adults gawk at you or worse frown. Another problem I faced as a child was the transportation. Coming from a middle class family my mode of transport was Bus. In those days there was no Janata Bus, no reserved seats for people with disability. In the school I had to be very careful at the time when the school was beginning and getting over as children tend to be in a hurry to come and go and would push anyone in their way.
My personal experience has shown me that parents have a major role to play in the lives of disabled children at least in the initial stages. Parents should understand that their child has some limitations and they must contribute towards making the child overcome it. The main key that all the efforts should be in the direction of making the child independent, as sooner or later the child will have to face the World on his own. Many parents try to keep such a child at home most of the time which denies him an opportunity to mix with the other children, enjoy, learn the ways of society. Situation is really pathetic in many rural areas or even in some educated urban families where such children are either denied any education or in some cases even necessary accessories such as crutches, wheelchairs etc. Not only such child remains uneducated but mostly immobile and mobility is life. Recently my vehicle was in garage for over a week and i commuted by 6 seater rickshaws. One of the rickshaw driver asked me how much I am educated and where I am working, that is if I am working. Then he told me that he had a younger brother who had polio and could not walk at all. They did not take the child to the school. He was not given even a wheelchair thinking that they would manage him at home only. That child became so frustrated being lonely and unable to do anything about it, no one to play or talk to except brothers and sisters, totally dependent. He did not see the outside World much. Finally when he turned 16–17, totally frustrated committed suicide at home. There is a family in my area which is well to do and have a boy who cannot walk. They too have not provided him with even a wheelchair. They take him to school in their vehicle. But how long can they lift him and put in vehicle or carry in the classroom. The boy must be able to manage for himself for he will gain weight as he grows, his brothers and sisters will marry and lead their own lives. Parents will not be in a position to help him once they are past their youth. Not many families think this way.
It is responsibility of parents to think of the future of their disabled child. If they need help or guidance they can approach the NGO’s working for the disabled. Parents should remember that only if their disabled child becomes independent and manages most of the daily chores on his own that they can die peacefully knowing that he will not only survive but will do well.
What I expect from people is to look at the people with disability like any other normal person. Most of the people with disability who come on the road can manage most of the things for themselves, otherwise they would not have ventured on to the road. All they need is an occasional help. This particularly is directed towards employers. These people either have aversion to the people with disability or doubt their capacity to work. I have an experience of this at few places. One lady working for a well known placement agency located at Shivajinagar ST Bus Terminal blatantly told me that if she had been around she would not have enrolled me. According to her many employers do not hire people with disability and went on to tell me that they judge by physical appearance. How is it that then I could get a jobs on my own and that working well without anybody’s help. There are many people with disability serving in offices, factories.
I would like the Govt. to see that whatever posts reserved for people with disability are filled. I do not know if there is a scheme for free education for people with disability. I would like Govt. to start free education scheme for disabled children and even for adults (if they are unemployed). This is mainly due to the fact that it is very difficult for a middle class family to spend on education of such child as they have to spend more on transportation. Also I would like the Govt. to start rehabilitation centres where help is given to such people. Crutches, wheelchairs etc. equipments are the constant companions of the people with disability. They have to spend on these throughout their lives and hence should be easily available at subsidized rates. These accessories are very costly and often substandard as well in the private shops.
Your idea of getting a charitable organization to put railings is a very practical idea. I have often come across this problem. It is very dangerous to come down the staircase without railing. Another problem added now days is, glossy and ceramic tiles. Crutches slip of them, due to which I have even changed my bank. But everywhere people are using these tiles. They are so dangerous to walk on and when wet an open invitation for a free fall.
I would like to see support groups coming in every city and even in rural areas. Meeting of disable people should be arranged to give them platform to present the difficulties they face in life. It would be very humanitarian if some members of this group/volunteers visit those people who are disabled to such an extent that venturing out is impossible for them. It is great to have somebody apart from family member to talk to. Here where I work we have this system by which our Medical Social Worker and volunteers visit the terminally ill cancer patients at their homes. This would also help in assessing the financial position of the family and giving guidance to them as to where they can get help.
As for my adjustment towards life, I live like any able bodied person. I can do most of my work myself. I can walk at least 1 km and hence most of the marketing I do on my own. I have a scooter with side car attached for conveyance and for carrying material from market to home. But I can and do travel by public transport system. Most of the time I do not feel I am disabled except when someone reminds or when I see people playing. I think if not for this disability I definitely have become a good sportsman. I do take physical exercises to keep me fit and to retain my movements.