World Disability Day: A 25-Year Saga!

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World Disability Day, December 3rd, sheds light on an often ignored ‘minority’, which makes up 15% of the world’s population. While the focus is on ‘inclusivity’, most people are unaware of its existence, 25 years since it was first announced. Hear it from our expert Rustom Irani, who speaks about the before and after of World Disability Day!


Meet our wheelchair-user expert Rustom Irani a.k.a Rusty

Let’s communicate. Just you and me. You in front of your screen reading this, me, wondering if we’d ever meet in person. Millions of us, wondering, communicating seldom and left wanting.

Rules are made, rights are spoken about, inspirational stories abound! The truly admirable among us go about at full throttle for their hard earned fame and glory. We wait, watch, wish, worry and whine, for a while, then go about just existing. This is how it has been for a majority of us and how it shall be till we, the not so able persons with disabilities, decide to do something about it.

Imagine a time when there was no internet, email, WhatsApp, YouTube, no basic accessibility. It was definitely not an ideal time to be a wheelchair-user and live a normal life in an able-bodied world. Universal design and accessibility were unheard of terms in India of the 1980s. The few fellow disabled I’d meet would be at hospitals, clinics or the odd philanthropic event organised by your local social club. Seems familiar, right? Getting an education at an institution catering to the able-bodied student and leaving your home was then considered a luxury. Travelling in vehicles, a risk! And vacationing? You can only visit the Gateway of India so many times; by the 1990s, you began thinking that vacations were getting suspiciously short.

The only thing that has now changed is that we now have the occasional limelight pointed in our general direction, and once it serves its purpose, back in the shadows we go.

Which brings us to this day – World Disability Day, a.k.a., International Day For People With Disabilities. The United Nations has been working hard to enable us but nobody has a clue whether it is something tangible or a hallmark holiday of sorts with Government endorsements.

I’ll admit I never knew of its existence, though it’s been around since 1992; a rather strange birth, probably due to some cosmic realisation brought by somebody on a cold December winter. But in all seriousness, it’s an astonishing initiative by the UN, now in its 25th year, with specific goals and targeted themes each year as part of this day, but it still remains oblivious to a vast majority of us. Therein, lies the problem!

The solution is childishly simple. All this day ever wanted to achieve, for over 25 years I might add, is just plain ‘Inclusivity’. Accessibility, universal design, providing knowledge, resources, encouragement all boils down to telling the rest of the world’s population to look our way, and tells us to just take that first damn step.

But here we are, probably looking at all the events planned for us today. Probably wondering what this day is really all about, before we go back to our little pockets of limited memories with nothing to look forward to. It’s been too long since 1992 for us to live this way.

As for me, dear reader, I’ve already typed this a few days back and on this day for us, I shall include myself with a few more of our tribe, who do venture out and fight for inclusion, and enjoy a drink, some stories and make new friends, both with the able and disabled.

Surprise me, prove me wrong on all that I’ve said above, come over to El Toro in Bandra this Sunday, and I’ll not just communicate, but even buy you a drink. Let’s make this Day of Disability count for something.


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Rustom Irani

Founder and Creative Head of MoniePlant Productions, Rustom Irani was confined to a wheelchair after a motorbike accident at age nine. Despite this disadvantage, he has travelled across four continents and believes that a vacation is something to look forward to rather than something that you need to avoid. In keeping with this spirit, Rustom is dedicated to offering solutions and making travel more accessible for disabled travellers.

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