Shillong, Oct 13: People with Disabilities (PWDs) in Meghalaya today said that they are facing challenges not because of who they are, but due to the unfriendly surroundings they have to encounter in their everyday lives.
Padma Shri awardee Bertha Dkhar, best known as the inventor of the braille code in Khasi – who is herself a PWD, said 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 a cane,” Dkhar.
She said that 20 years ago when she first used the white cane she could easily navigate through Shillong’s streets, which is impossible nowadays.
“It is not easy anymore, 20 years back the right roads weren’t so crowded and the traffics were light and drivers were disciplined. But now drivers have become indisciplined and pavements are uneven, used by people,” she said.
Dkhar urged the Transport department to create awareness and also the driving schools to include in their curriculum the significance of the white cane.
Rinaline Nongdhar, who uses the wheelchair said that there is no proper lane for those who uses one.
“The footpaths are narrow, have steps and are uneven. Often we have to use the road which is dangerous due to traffic. At times we also get stuck in the traffic,” Nongdhar said.
Tina Beale a member of Bethany Society said 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 that they can live a life of dignity,” Beale said.
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 North Eastern Hill University said that with the white cane she can see the world better.
“The white cane gives me freedom confidence and independence. It is not only a tool but a representation,” she said.
Lyngdoh said that the white cane protects from losing direction, finding landmarks and cross roads.