Challenges provide space to opportunities. I do have certain physical limitations and have many challenges but I always create opportunities out of these challenges. Being a wheelchair-bound person and having a Gold Medal in my MBA, I have never let my disabilities overshadow my abilities. It is important to accept that people are not disabled, rather differently-abled.
Covid-19 has completely changed the world and forced people to accept the new normal. People have been pushed out of their comfort zones to adapt to the fast-changing scenarios. Be it wearing masks wherever you go, working from home, virtual meetings and travelling which has become a major stress task!
Regrettably, people are forced to change when they themselves are impacted by it as they do not think about society in general. Covid-19 on one hand has changed the entire lifestyle but on the positive side it has taught us a lot. God has opened eyes of many who were just running for their own interests and had forgotten about humanity.
Take for example, a simple and basic life experience – eating out at restaurants. Before the pandemic I had access to only a handful of restaurants as majority of restaurants had steep staircases. As a wheelchair-bound person, I have certain sentiments and no adult likes to be physically carried from one place to another. But life works in strange ways. This pandemic and the ensuring lockdown SOPs forced all restaurants to serve outdoors; even on public roads. I now have the opportunity to dine at some of the most famous restaurants, which I was hitherto deprived of. I can understand it’s difficult to serve outside but to run the business, they made all the needed efforts. Do they realise that they never thought of facilitating the physically challenged previously and now when thing get back to normal will they build ramps at their entrance to enable such people to enjoy their services. This may not seem like a big issue but every small thing counts in changing our society as it’s all linked to changing mindsets of those around us.
Having this in mind, a group of young individuals headed by myself, with strong resolve and vision took the first step and initiated a Project in the year 2004 in the name of “SHOW YOU CARE” (SYC). We are endeavoring to create social awareness to provide proper accessibilities for the physically challenged people of our society. Our objective is to change the mindset and attitude of people towards the differently able people and to impress upon the concerned authorities to make it mandatory for all public places to have adequate facilities for the wheelchair bound people.
DHA being newly developed modern locale lacks in providing access to wheelchair-bound people. Where are DHA and KBCA laws? KBCA and DHA laws state that facilities like ramps and elevators are mandatory in public places, however there is no compliance and no penalties, thus people simply bypass this law. It’s sad that the awareness/implementation is not there even in our literary circle. Franchises such as KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Hardees, Nandos, etc. openly follow the same recipe, standard and interior while infrastructure is ignored. They follow no SOPs of providing access to wheelchair bound people which is mandatory in other countries. It’s not just DHA, my dream is to make entire Karachi; in fact entire Pakistan wheelchair accessible. In civilized societies no building plan is passed without proper access for special people as they are given priority and treated as normal citizens. Even public transport should have wheelchair access.
In Pakistan, government and private sector both can play a very important role. The government can pass a legislation making mandatory to provide wheelchair access and private sector should make it part of corporate social responsibility and can work on their own buildings and motivate special children to have education, jobs and social opportunities. We can change mindsets and make physically challenged people an important part of our society.
Being a private entrepreneur, I strongly endorse this noble cause and would strongly urge everyone to make their house, offices, restaurants, parks, schools or any place which they own to make wheelchair accessible by providing ramps and lifts. It’s a basic human right. A ramp costs only Rs 8,000 approx. It’s a one-time bill of a family when they dine out. We spend millions to construct buildings but do not keep in consideration requirement of wheelchair bound people. This is just a matter of mindset to make your place accessible. Please join hands and help special people live independent, normal life. Special people are not “Disabled”; they are “Differently-Abled”.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021