Disabled Lives Matter: Time to take a Cue from America

By Shruti Pushkarna

Millions of people had their eyes set on January 20, 2021. The inauguration ceremony of the 46th President of United States of America being seen as a beacon of hope, to restore faith in democracy. Something the outgoing President had ridiculed in myriad ways, throughout his four years of governance (read disruption).


The feeling of optimism suffused across the world, not just experienced by US residents but all those who witnessed a self-obsessed supremacist make moves (read blunders) that annihilated the very principles of equality, justice, harmony, even humanity.


I, too, was following the election results closely. As someone who strongly advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities, I was elated at the mention of disability in Joe Biden’s victory speech on November 7. Biden is only the second US President apart from Barack Obama to acknowledge disability in his address. He said: “We must make the promise of the country real for everybody, no matter their race, their ethnicity, their faith, their identity, or their disability.” Read more

Time to Rejig the Content Mix?

By Shruti Pushkarna


The only change we witnessed on January 1 was calendrical. 2020 was a washout, with bad news hitting us consistently from every part of the globe. The ghastly spread of coronavirus wasn’t the only peril we dealt with. Don’t forget the floods, cyclones, frequent earthquakes, economic slowdown following the lockdown, rising unemployment and brutal pay cuts. The only hope in sight was the promise of a vaccine roll-out in 2021. Just as we were getting ready to usher in a world capable with fighting the virus, the World Health Organisation announced that we were unlikely to develop herd immunity in this new year.


On the political front too, countries are busy competing for attention. Apart from the usual blows and soap opera antics, the Narendra Modi government has been unable to placate or negotiate with the protesting farmers. And across the Atlantic, United States made history as the outgoing President Donald Trump incited supporters to storm into the Capitol and ransack offices, leading to the death of a police officer. Read more

Waking up to a disabled-friendly media in 2021

By Shruti Pushkarna

New Year is all about hope. We go to bed on December 31, hoping that there will be something miraculously different about January 1. There is almost a Cinderella feel to it. For a short period, most of us believe that we will wake up to a changed, better scenario. I’ve decided to indulge myself too, and make this last piece of the year, all about what I want to see in 2021.

But a little disclaimer before I pull out my euphoric list that promises to make inclusion somewhat of a reality starting New Year’s day. This piece is written in a lighter vein, any noticeable sarcasm is incidental. 

Accessible news telecast for all

All Indian language news channels launch a special broadcast service accessible to persons with different types of disabilities. People with hearing, speech or vision impairment as well as those with learning or intellectual disability won’t need to seek help from the able-bodied to catch the latest news. Read more

World Disability Day: What will it take to change the status quo?

By Shruti Pushkarna

As I write this piece, I’m experiencing a mixed set of emotions. I’m thrilled because I have managed to nearly complete a year of this column on ‘Media and Disability’. At the same time I’m sort of disillusioned, thinking if this fortnightly exercise has made any real difference for persons with disabilities. I’m saddened because the media or the society doesn’t much care about vulnerable groups and their respective challenges. But more than anything I’m angry.

Change is not easy to come. I’m aware. But I’m angry at how little has changed in the past several years in this age of information boom and 24X7 news. Also despite the new empowering laws and policies that gave us hope of better times to come. Read more

A Powerful Vision Poorly Executed!

By George Abraham, CEO Score Foundation

Digital India, Skill India, Accessible India – all campaigns that promised transformation, inclusion and progress. These revolutionary ideas caught the imagination of the nation and raised expectations all around. This was the vision with which Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched his first tenure as leader of this vast nation.

These campaigns also triggered hope and anticipation amongst blind and visually impaired citizens. The push towards Digital India called for Digital Governance, Digital Infrastructure and Digital Literacy. All this sounded like music to a disability activist like me. It promised to be a gamechanger for the blind and visually impaired population of the country. Technology such as screen-reading software, artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine language could now seamlessly connect the blind and visually impaired people with this new emerging Digital India. Read more

Does Empathy Stem from a Lived Experience Alone?

By Shruti Pushkarna

I almost didn’t write this piece. In fact my mind was totally blank. No ideas. Zilch. Then I wondered to myself, this column is all about voicing issues, it’s not like there’s a dearth of those. The challenge is not the lack of ideas or issues, but my brain’s selfish need to focus on personal problems.


At this point I’m overwhelmed with taking care of my Covid-positive parents. I maybe convinced that there are no bigger problems in the world. But the truth is no one cares. No one outside of my tiny family bubble cares at all. Everyone is consumed with their own life hassles. Read more

Why Dissociate Dignity from Disability?

By Shruti Pushkarna

There comes a point in life when everyone needs a bit of help. As I write this piece, I am writhing in pain. On any given day, I score myself quite high on the strength quotient when it comes to overcoming challenges, even physical discomfort. But not today. I sought professional help, acknowledging my inability to deal with the situation.

People seek support from friends, family and even total strangers at times. We all need assistance, it could be physical, emotional or financial. But despite the universal need, seeking help is often likened to a weakness. It puts the person giving help on a pedestal, patronising the one receiving it. Read more

Eye Health cannot just be about Avoidable Blindness

By Shruti Pushkarna

Gratitude. Given all that’s been happening around us in the recent times, this is one word I like to begin and end each day with. Because I truly believe, I lead a good life (well, in most parts). In fact, a lot of us do. But somehow we forget and take things for granted. Until something surprises or shocks us into believing otherwise.

When I look at news from around the country and the world, it feels depressing. Rapes, drugs, derisive politics, looting, lynching, suicides, untimely deaths, incurable illnesses. We consume all such content on a daily basis, which makes us question our belief in humanity or the intrinsic goodness in people. Read more

NHFDC: Steps towards Empowerment and Economic Rehabilitation

By Manjima Biswas

The government has come up with multiple schemes over time to safeguard the inclusion and social well-being of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in India. The provision of equal opportunities to PwDs includes empowerment through livelihood options and viable opportunities for becoming economically self-reliant. To help this stance of economic rehabilitation of PwDs, an institution for expanding concessional credit towards self-employment opportunities and vocational training, National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) was formed in 1997, under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.


Objective of NHFDC/NHFDC Schemes


Through schemes like Divyangjan Swavalamban Yojana and the Microfinance Yojana, NHFDC aims to achieve the objective of empowerment of PwDs and their inclusion in the mainstream. To secure this, financial assistance through loans is the main objective. The other broader objective is to focus on overall development, skill building and assist with funds for general/professional/technical education or training. Through Microfinance Yojana, financial assistance upto Rs 50000 can be availed by the weaker section among PwDs to help with small income-generating initiatives. The Divyangjan Swavalamban Yojana allows an upper limit of Rs 50 lakhs as loan for business initiatives that aim at the growth and betterment of PwDs in any way.

Read more

Invisible Disabilities: Missing from any Discourse on Disability

By Shruti Pushkarna

Lately, I have found myself unwinding to reruns of old favourite TV shows (now easily available on OTT platforms). The extensive amount of work unleashed by the pandemic, both on the professional as well as home front, leaves me utterly exhausted. So I treat myself to a nightcap in the form of yesteryear soap operas.

An episode of Boston Legal, (an American legal drama series which first aired in 2004) resonated with my current stance on challenging stereotypes and perceptions, specific to disability.
Screengrabs from Boston Legal, Season 2, Episode 15 where the protagonist makes a case for a little girl who cannot smile after a car accident damaged her nerve. Read more