SPEAKing Up Reblog: Knowledge is Power

Information is key in having any disability. Not only did it help me navigate my way through childhood but it helped me explain it to others. When I was a child I was of course teased a little for being spastic. This, even though it hurt, came as no surprise to me. I already knew […]

In Recognition of Cerebral Palsy Month

via Cerebral Palsy and being a “spas” — Emily Dolenz, Inspirational Artist

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Guest Blog: Rajesh Speaks

‘I Am Not Asking for Charity’ – the Man Fighting for Disabled-Friendly Screening at Indian AirportsRajesh-picture-1

Rajesh Bhatia writes about his experiences at airports as an above-knee amputee, and why he started a campaign asking the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security to make security procedures inclusive.I am an above-knee amputee since 1992, when I lost my leg to a fatal road accident. After the initial trauma, I marched ahead in my life and rose to among the top most echelons of one of India’s largest multi-national companies.

I fly frequently for work, both domestically and internationally from several Indian airports.

Each time I pass through the security check points at the airports, I am treated like a criminal by CISF, the security staff, just because I use a prosthetic limb (artificial leg) for my mobility.

 

Having not received any training on the screening of persons with prosthetics, the security staff is generally clueless on how to handle my screening. I am asked and many times, even forced, to strip and to remove my prosthetic because they suspect that I might be hiding a gun or a knife in my prosthetic. The security staff then picks up my prosthetic and puts it on the x-ray machine as if it is a piece of luggage, while I am left immobile and in a state of agony praying that I receive my prosthetic undamaged. I have to then go through the process of putting on my prosthetic, which by then does not have enough suction to stay in place thereby putting my mobility and safety in jeopardy.


Let me tell you that the suction of a prosthetic does not allow even the air to pass through it. Then how can I hide a weapon in my prosthetic?

Imagine being harassed this way since October 2012, each time I have undertaken air travel! How would I feel? Even several women amputees, including Sudha Chandran, have been harassed in this manner.

On October 8, 2013, while I was leaving with my family for a vacation to Thailand from Delhi’s IGI airport, the metal detector beeped owing to my prosthetic. I showed them my disability certificate. Yet the security staff seemed confused. After turning down my request for pat-down or ETD frisking, they forced me to strip in front of their entire staff and a CISF officer asked me repeatedly if I got married before or after my amputation.

I want to make it clear that CISF is not to be blamed. It is a puppet in the hands of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security India (BCAS), the organization that has laid down such humiliating screening procedures for PwDs.

The dictate of BCAS to CISF to regard PwDs, including amputees who use prosthetics, a bigger security risk; to ask them to strip and remove their prosthetic and, to make wheelchair users stand up – as they all may be carriers of explosives and weapons – is a violation of their human rights.

I have been informed by several PwDs that they do not undertake air travel for the fear of being humiliated. It has been my goal since my first harrowing experience with frisking in 2012, to be the voice of millions of PwDs in India. I would never like them to go through similar trauma with airport security. For that reason I launched my petition against BCAS on change.org and even my campaign’s Rajesh Speaks’s Facebook in 2013. I have not received any response from BCAS from the signatures on my petition.

I have also written several letters to former PM Manmohan Singh, PM Narendra Modi, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), CISF, CCPD (Office of the Chief Commissioner of PwDs) and others. Yet I got no response from them and in exceptional cases when I did hear back from them, including to my RTI and my letter to PM Narendra Modi, their offices ignored my concerns and simply passed on the buck to another organization.

I have traveled worldwide including to Europe, Italy, France, Germany, Ireland, Romania, Belgium, United States and Russia. The airport security at each one of these places treats me respectfully and simply frisks me with a pat-down process.

The entire screening procedures for PwDs and the insensitivity of BCAS and CISF need a human face. They need to be sensitized. Isn’t that more important than building fancier airports?

I am not asking that the national security & the security of fliers be compromised. I am asking BCAS to:

 

1) Lay down clear guidelines in its Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, for the security screening of PwDs;

2) Sensitize and train CISF in the respectful screening of PwDs;

3) Install full body scanners at Indian airports of the kind that are used at the airports in the United States;

4) Enforce zero-tolerance policy for any discrimination of PwDs.

Raja Srivastava, Additional Director General BCAS, had given his word to me at a CISF training workshop on March 30, 2014, at which I was invited to present my thoughts on the frisking of people who use prosthetic, that he would be open to incorporating my suggestions in the SOP for the screening of PwDs. However, even he has backed out of his word to me.

In May 2014, my sister Smiti Bhatia and I had conducted extensive research on the international security norms for PwDs and had written a manual under the guidance of disability advocates, on the “Screening Guidelines to be Followed by CISF for PwDs at Indian Airports.” The manual abides by the world-class screening procedures, and by the language of Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). It was also laid out by our teammate in a PPT with visuals. I had handed over the manual to Mr. Ajay Kumar and Mr. O.P. Singh, senior CISF officers, in June, 2014. They had approved the manual. However, BCAS has not included it in its SOP.


In May 2016, Supreme court had passed a judgment in Jeeja Ghosh’s case against her discrimination by Spice Jet that “there should be a full recognition of the fact that persons with disabilities were an integral part of the community, equal in dignity and entitled to enjoy the same human rights and freedoms as others.” Jeeja Ghosh has Cerebral Palsy. She was de-boarded by the flight crew because of her disability.

By violating the human rights of PwDs, BCAS is in violation of the Supreme Court’s judgment. It is a shame that such repeated assaults on the most vulnerable citizens of India are allowed in a democracy.

Following the ruling, Supreme Court had directed Director General of Civil Aviation to consult with civil society to ensure that air travel was non-discriminatory for PwDs. On June 27, 2016, the disability advocates, including Smiti and I, had submitted our comments, including our manual to DGCA. We have not received any response from DGCA.

I am asking BCAS and MoCA that my rights and those of PwDs be restored. I am not asking for charity. I am a law-abiding, tax-paying citizen of India.

 

I want you all to stand up and support me by signing my petition here. I need a minimum of 100,000 signatures to persuade BCAS and MoCA to enforce the changes that I am seeking.

Also, check out Rajesh Speaks on Facebook.

(Written by Rajesh Bhatia Originally Published Here)

SPEAKing Up Reblog:Say What You Mean

“It really gets to me,” said my son, checking his phone as I was putting his socks on. “What does?” “Words… stuff like this…” He read me a passage from social media. I immediately saw what he meant. It was story about a little girl with a beautiful voice. It was a touching enough tale, […]

via Word power — Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo

Reaching Out

Please consider following us on Twitter @ProjectSpeakPro and find us on Facebook at Project Speak Productions thanks!

Also we are always looking for bloggers, podcasts, video etc if you want to to be part of this site please send your ideas to: submit.projectspeak@gmail.com

We are happy to work with you and provide as much support as possible to make your ideas a reality.

SPEAKing Up: The Power is Yours

Okay everyone, change of plans. Since the topic of love and relationships seemly did not generate much interest or conversation I am going to delay posting on the subject.

Instead, I am putting the power in your hands! Tell me, what topics should we be discussing here? What are the most pressing issues facing the disabled community? What keeps you up at night? What gives you hope?

Come talk with me! Project Speak can be great but I can’t do it without you.

SPEAKing Up: 5 Disabled People Who Changed the World

Something fun on a crappy winter day!

People have a tendency to not expect much from disabled people…try telling that to these guys.

 

 

 

1. Albert Einstein(Autism Spectrum)

 

 

You know your awesome when your name is a synonym for genius.

 

 

 

2. Thomas Edison(Deafness/Hearing Loss)

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Face it we’d be living like apes without this guy.

 

 

 

3. FDR(Polio)

 

 

Best President ever PERIOD.

 

 

 

4. Charles Dickens(Epilepsy)

 

 

 

Christmas without Dickens…not OK!

 

 

 

 

5. Julius Caesar(Epilepsy)

 

Do I really have to spell it out?

So next time someone underestimates you channel these guys, then go kill it.

SPEAKing Up:Something to Remember

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us most…” Marianne Williamson in A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles

The sentiment of the above quote is beautiful, and I hope that every person has at least one experience that leads them to believe that it is true. However, if someone were to tell me that they had never feared their own inadequacies I would have a difficult time believing them.

Inadequacy is a perfectly relevant fear, and in my opinion, is particularly pertinent to the disabled community. The judgments of others can sometimes make people feel inadequate. Stereotypes, hurtful comments, and differential treatment can make anyone feel as if they are not worthy of being part of certain groups or communities. They make us feel as if our opinions, thoughts, and personalities are somehow less important. This is where I think some of the stereotype of disabled people being shy and conservative comes from. It is easy to dismiss someone’s ideas if you have already categorized the person as being weak, shy, or incapable.

Sometimes feelings of inadequacy and fear can even be self-inflicted. Many people have been in situations the limitations of a disability might seem insurmountable.

However there are a couple of pieces of information that I think any disabled person should remember when faced with feelings of inadequacy. First of all, people with disabilities are the largest minority group. This means that none of us are the first, or the last to face our challenges, and many before us have overcome them. Also, the disabled community represents the only minority that any person can become part of at any time. While most of us would never wish a disability on anyone it just shows that the line between so-called normalcy and being “different” is a very fine one. Therefore, those of us with disabilities have all the same rights as any other person, including the right to be as unique, loud, crazy, and daring as we wish

SPEAKing Up: Disability and Community

There are many reasons decided to start this blog but one of my most important agendas when blogging is sharing my views with a larger community of disabled individuals and anyone whose life has been altered by a disability. The disabled community in and of itself is a very powerful thing and I am proud to be a part of it. As someone who has lived with a disability all my life I can say wholeheartedly that the sense of community and support I have always felt from other disabled people has become a very key part of how I carry myself in everyday life.

As someone who is now in the very interesting position of living with a disability and working at in a field that serves disabled people, I have sometimes heard others make statements about large groups of disabled people out together being intimidating to others around them. Those people argue that creating that discomfort is counter-productive to community integration and should be generally avoided.

That is a gross over simplification and it drives me crazy. I can absolutely agree that we shouldn’t drag people in large groups for the sake of simplicity(staffing, transportation etc.). However this idea of accommodating the comfort of the general really bothers me.

Everyday across the world people come together in the name of common interest and bond over shared experiences. Nobody bats an eyelash when those groups are comprised of car enthusiast or even cancer survivors, in fact we  celebrate those groups. Yet if I want to assemble a group of friends who all happen to be disabled that is somehow intimidating? I flat out refuse to accept that.

I spend my time with people that I find interesting and we go where choose, Everyone on the planet has that right.

I will work incredibly hard from this moment forward to cultivate a vibrant community of creative people with disabilities here at Project Speak. Together we will show the world that our common experience is  valuable and positive. Having a disability is not a positive experience but it does make us part of a thriving community that deserves respect discouragement.

 

 

 

 

SPEAKing Up: Understanding the Problem

Project Speak was created with the intention of opening up the lines of communication and presenting the truth of the disabled experience to the widest possible audience. We will work tirelessly to make sure that our content is unclouded by the stereotypes, falsehoods and misunderstandings that sometimes create tensions between people with disabilities and others. However if we hope to come together for an honest discussion we must first acknowledge what divides us.

1.  Prejudice – I would love to be a be able to say that there is no prejudice in the world that there are only misunderstandings; however this would be a lie. There are angry, stubborn, and hateful people in the world who do truly believe that only people like them are valuable. The important thing to remember is never to let another person’s beliefs define you or the way you look at other people. Each of us has the power and the right to make those decisions on our own. 

2.  Misunderstanding – Acknowledging the fact that there is prejudice in the world does not necessarily mean that every person who stereotypes the disabled is doing it out of malice. It has been my experience that even educated, intelligent, and caring people can sometimes act in ways that are hurtful. Not everyone grows up being exposed to disabilities on a regular basis and human beings do have a tendency to be apprehensive and even fearful about the unknown. This coupled with the fact that there’s so much false information about disabilities that has become ingrained into societal beliefs (like the idea that all physically disabled individuals also have mental impairments) can mean that sometimes people act in offensive, hurtful or stereotyping ways.

For example, I was the first disabled in several years person to go through my high school’s mainstream educational program. Most of my teachers had no experience with having a disabled student, particularly one with no cognitive or developmental impairments. Almost every time I went into a new classroom the teacher showed some level of apprehension or skepticism (one teacher whom I became particularly close with actually told me several years later he had never been so scared as he was when I first came into the classroom). Some even started to approach me differently than they would any other student but I stopped it as fast as I could. I was very honest and up front with them about what I needed and how I expected to be treated. I cannot take all the credit for this I also had a wonderful aid and a very involved mother who helped me through the process of growing up and understanding these things. Once my teachers understood my disability and what I was capable of I got a great education. 

3.  Media – The media plays a large role in dictating what is considered acceptable and “normal” (I use the quotes because I think normal is really an illusion) in this society and unfortunately there are very few honest, accurate, and thoughtful representations of the disabled community.

4.  Self-stereotyping due to dependency – This is the most complex and difficult to define factor of this conversation. There are many disabled people in the world who are extremely self-sufficient and take great pride in their independence. However, the fact is that most of us who are disabled or going to need  additional help in our lives. I think Sometimes that dependency can lead to bad habits. Some people simply get lazy and think that it’s easier to be weak and submissive to allow other people to run their lives for them. Sometimes, the self-stereotyping is done out of anger and frustration because it provides an easy way out. There are also those who lack the self-confidence to truly believe that they are capable of being active and outspoken in their own lives. One individual might go through phases where each of these things applies to them. However the important thing to realize is that no matter how dependent person is they do have the right to control in their own life. The law guarantees these rights and There are several resources available to help individuals advocate for their rights.