|Callousness towards the disabled
D. S. T. Jayaratne of Colombo 7 writing under the above caption inThe Island 2.3.2002, makes a shocking revelation. Of the experience of a disabled person who went for a job interview, he says, "As he walked into the room with the crutch, where the interview was conducted, the Human Resource Manager (HRM) had curtly told this disabled applicant in your present state we cannot offer employment."
Is this the attitude of an HRM towards a disabled person? No sane human being, looking at a person hobbling on a crutch, without the common courtesy of requesting him to take a seat first and checking on his credentials and capabilities would bluntly turn away that disabled person saying, "We cannot offer employment".
It is sad and it is here that the EFSL (Employers Federation of Sri Lanka) should take up this matter with absolute seriousness and educate the employers and create an awareness among them as to the rights of the disabled and the need to treat them humanely.
As the writer rightly points out the apathy and indifference of most employers towards the employable disabled is regrettable. The disabled in this country are a group of silent sufferers and nearly 10 percent of citizens of Sri Lanka are disabled.
Now, where lie the problems and where lie the solutions?
The cry of the disabled echoes and re-echoes the world over and the time is opportune for persons with disabilities in Sri Lanka to get together and agitate so that their voice will be heard.
The hitherto made voice of the disabled has already made an impact in several of the South and South Asian countries and it is my personal experience, having visited these countries and presented several papers on disability issues, that the disabled are now wide-awake to fight for their rights.
Sri Lanka lags far behind many other countries in respect of many of these issues.
The discrimination of the disabled here takes two forms:
Personal discrimination experienced by individuals when applying for jobs and using services; and Structural or Institutional discrimination rooted in transport, housing, and the way public buildings are designed.
The challenge before society and the authorities concerned is to eradicate this discrimination and callousness towards the disabled. Enabling the employable disabled persons to gain employment etc. should be given top-priority.
I have compiled and presented a detailed document, National Policy on Disability which has focused wide and varied critical issues pertaining to persons with disabilities and if that National Policy is implemented, callousness towards the disabled will cease to be and they will have a better tomorrow.
The disabled people accept that the world cannot be changed overnight. But a political commitment to civil rights of disabled people needs to be immediately made to create opportunities and influence the long-term process of changing attitudes to disability.
The sooner we choose to make a start the better it would be for the disabled.
J. P. Pathirana
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