Monday, December 3, 2012

A black armband silent protest on IDPD

A black armband silent protest against Medical Superintendent, GTB Hospital, Delhi
Issued on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December 2012

Dr Satendra Singh's black armband protest on inaccessibility
Protesting for a cause
As the world celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPwD) today, I as a Coordinator, Enabling Unit (for PwD) & Equal Opportunity Cell; Chairperson, Equality & Diversity Committee; founder, Infinite Ability; and a faculty member at UCMS & GTB Hospital sit quite gloomy while trying to find out reasons to celebrate.
University College of Medical Sciences is a premiere medical institution of Delhi and constituent college of University of Delhi. The associated teaching hospital is GTB Hospital which comes under NCT of Delhi. We are perhaps the only medical institute in India having a dedicated Enabling Unit for persons with disabilities (PwDs) as per UGC guidelines. We are committed to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all PwD, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.
Till now, I have enjoyed support of Principal, UCMS and we have done some good work as well. However, a lot needs to be done and I cannot reciprocate the same support coming from Medical Superintendent (MS) of GTB Hospital. The theme for IDPwD today is “Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.” We, the PwDs, are world’s largest minority and faces barriers in the form of physical, e-inaccessibility and attitudinal barriers. The legally binding UNCRPD protects our rights since India has ratified the convention in 2007.
Under my chairmanship, I formed an Equality & Diversity Committee consisting of faculty, students and non-teaching members, all being PwDs in line with the mantra ‘Nothing for us, without us.’  My students raised the issue of inaccessible conditions prevailing in GTBH campus and I circulated the minutes to higher authorities for immediate action. That was May 2012 and its 3rd December now. My repeated requests and reminders to MS GTBH have fallen in deaf ears.
The new MCH block at GTBH has a dedicated ramp as well as accessible toilet but it is not yet functional.

The CRPD requires States to ensure “reasonable accommodation” of the rights of PwDs. The library, Conference Hall and MEU is without any lift and it therefore violates the right to education (article 24). Accessibility is essential to enable PwDs to live independently and participate fully in life-it is therefore an end in itself as well as a means to enjoy other rights. The inaccessible Post Office and Canara Bank in the campus defies article 19 and 27 of CRPD. I myself arranged a meeting of AGM, Canara Bank with MS in July where the former showed his willingness to shift the Bank branch on the ground floor. However, I am still awaiting for the minutes of that meeting.
It gives me great pain to know each day my students with disabilities have to encounter herculean task at the hostel which has a steep ramp without hand-railings. PwDs are not objects of charity; we are rather subjects with human rights. Government of India gives Rs50 lakhs under SIPDA to make a building barrier free. The complete apathy from Public Works Department, GTBH failed our proposal. I have requested many times to Hon’ble MS to look into these matters and I am still awaiting a response.
I take great pride in associating with UCMS & GTBH. I feel privileged and proud to be part of this great institution and hospital. I am however deeply distressed about the inaccessible issues prevailing in GTB campus and do not feel that I can start my day today at GTBH without indicating my feelings in a dignified manner on IDPwD.
I cannot in good conscience carry out my work today and ignore the fact that my disabled fraternity is feeling oppressed. It is impossible to ignore that nothing has happened since I started accessibility advocacy in April 2012. Although I am just another professional employee, I do have a conscience and feelings. I believe that if I, as Coordinator of Enabling Unit, remain silent today than it will be taken as a sign that either I do not care or I condone the inaccessible conditions prevailing in GTBH. I believe that it is important to stand up for what is right. Disability does not mean that I cannot stand up for our rights.
The harsh reality
I have struggled to think of an action that would be appropriate and that would not demean the official procedures. I would like to stress that I greatly respect the Hon’ble MS and all the hard work he is doing at GTBH.  However, the amount of communication sent to him is too much for comfort now.
On this special day and under the present circumstances I have decided that I will wear a black armband to mark my silent protest. In doing so I am highlighting the apathy towards PwDs. In doing so I am making a silent plea to Hon’ble MS to protect basic human rights of PwDs and show social accountability. In doing so I pray that my small action may help to expedite the process of making UCMS & GTBH a truly inclusive and accessible campus for one all.

Dr Satendra Singh


  1. Hello Dr. Satendra. I'm from Brazil and also agree with you that yes we have to demand our rights. I'm Ligh Designer in plays and shows and also have post polio. I have a pag Sindrome Pós Polio Brasil and would like to get in touch with you. Ari Colatti on facebook .. tried to find you there and still can not. I look forward to a good week .. and I'm reading your articles and really enjoying it.