SHILLONG: A number of people with 'special abilities'/'People with Disabilities' (PWDs) in Meghalaya have said that they are facing challenges not because of who they are but due to the unfriendly surroundings they have to encounter in their daily lives.
Padma Shri Bertha Dkhar — a PWD — stated that pedestrians have an unfriendly attitude towards them. "I get negative remarks from people when I accidentally hit a person with my white cane. Thereafter I cannot concentrate which is what's needed when using the white cane."
The inventor of the Braille code in Khasi, Dkhar further said that 20 years ago when she first used the white cane, she was able to easily navigate through the streets in Shillong. "But it is impossible nowadays," Dkhar added.
"20 years back, the roads weren't so crowded. The traffic was light and the drivers were also disciplined. But nowadays, many drivers are indisciplined. Besides, the pavements are uneven. The pavements also remain crowded," she said.
Dkhar urged the Transport department to create awareness among the drivers and owners of vehicles. She also stated that the driving schools must include the significance of the white cane in their curriculum.
Rinaline Nongdhar, who uses the wheelchair, said that "there are no demarcated lanes for us. The footpaths are narrow; even the steps that lead to the footpaths are uneven. Often we have to use the road which is a rather dangerous option due to the heavy traffic. At times we also get stuck in the traffic," pointed out Nongdhar.
Tina Beale, a member of the Bethany Society, said that most people of the PwDs are well educated. But, there are barriers in the environment which makes them disabled. "There is a need to create awareness among the public so that the PwDs can also live a life of dignity," said Beale.
Bertina Lyngdoh — who also uses the white cane — said that she is independent since she uses it. Lyngdoh who has completed her Masters in English from the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), said that with the white cane she can see the world well. She added, "The white cane gives me freedom, confidence and independence. It is not only a tool but a representation. The white cane protects us from losing our direction, finding landmarks and also helps un to cross the roads."
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