The problems of the disabled have many facets. It is commonly accepted that the problems of the disabled are varied in nature and this makes differing attitudes at various levels in society. In a developing country like India with long years of economic and social backwardness they become much more complex and acute. It is in the fitness of things that with growing social awareness and with the desire to optimize the totality of human resource development of the nation, the position of the disabled and the philosophy and strategy to tackle the situation should increasingly receive greater attention in our society.
The cumulative impact of several factors like poverty, malnutrition, illiteracy, unemployment, fatalism, unequal distribution of health services and other essential amenities on the general fabric of the total society must be kept in view while assessing the situation of the people with disabilities in the country. Nevertheless, complex and at times conflicting attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, stigmas, labels, values and knowledge have always existed and, many have managed to survive to this day. Almost all of these have had an adverse affect on the lives of the disabled.
Disability is a universal phenomenon though the causes differ as per the socio-economic status of the society. In the affluent, industrialized societies, occupational hazards and age are the main causes while in developing as well as underdeveloped countries, ignorance, poverty, lack of elementary medical facilities and pseudo-religious beliefs are the principal offenders1.
Human life is the most precious creation of God. It has two aspects: Biological and Sociological. The biological aspect of human life is maintained and transmitted by nutrition and reproduction. The social aspect of human life is maintained and transmitted by education. Education is considered a vital process in social sense. The disabled persons have to adjust with their own disabilities as well as to their social circle. Actually they have to bear a double-burden, social handicap and actual physical loss2. Before proceed further let us know what is adjustment? Adjustment is a condition or state in which one feels that one’s needs have been fulfilled and one’s behavior conforms to the requirements of a given culture. In the words of L.S.Shaffer (Mangal, 1989) says that “Adjustment is the process by which living organism maintains balance between its needs and the circumstances that influence the satisfaction of these needs”. Why disabled people should adjust with society because individual and society is inseparable. Individual lives in society. The problems of disabled are the consequences of cause and effect relationship like, disability and impairment.
When the social and psychological needs of the disabled persons are not gratified, it may develop adjustment problems. They are like, adjustment with Biological and Social Environment around him, an adjustment with his physical deformity, an adjustment with his economic condition of his family, an adjustment with his work environment, an adjustment with his attitudes (psychological adjustment).
Firstly, the disabled should adjust with his Environment around him, because, the humans typically have been included as one of a series of living things showing systematic relationships to one another3. In other words, “It is a continuous process by which an individual varies his behavior to produce a more harmonious relationship between himself and his environment4.” The environment with its systems of living things is of interest to everyone.
Secondly, the disabled persons face many problems in his adequate adjustment on account of his physical deformity. “A physical attribute may become handicapping not because it is physically limiting but because it adversely affects social relationships.”5 “A limiting factor is any substance or condition, either biological or physical, which has the tendency to limit or reduce the success of an individual organism, species, population or biotic community. Carrying capacity is the ability of an ecosystem to support a specific number of organisms.”6 They are unable to participate in desirable normal activities and their incapability develops in them emotional problems like resentment and discouragement. They develop a feeling that others have a low opinion about him due to their defect (deformity) and an undue exaggeration of this feeling in their mind results in development of inferiority complex and self-pity in them. Obviously, the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the crippled develop adjustment problems with these feelings. If a person with a physical disability is unable to participate in some activities that are highly valued, his space of free movement is felt to be restricted (effect). Part of the restriction may be due to the physical limitation (cause) itself. It leads to disability. Disability leads to devaluation. It can be expressed in various ways. Like, jokes about disabled persons more often deprecate and ridicule than do jokes about other classes. It can be seen in aversion toward a person with a physical disability. As long as physical disability is linked with shame and inferiority, realistic acceptance of one’s position and one’s self is precluded. This preclusion leads to self-devaluation of person with disability7.
Thirdly, Poverty is one of the most common forms of disadvantage experienced by disabled people and their families. Disabled people in all countries are economically disadvantaged. Many are living in severe poverty at or beyond the margins of society. This applies also to disabled people in countries with advanced systems of income support, because the allowances available to disabled people are judged to be inadequate to meet basic living costs8.
Financial difficulties may be the obvious, direct and sudden result of impairment. Every study of families in poverty always finds a high incidence of chronic sickness or disability, and every survey of the physically impaired notes that incomes are likely to be low. On the other hand, sickness may begin a slow drift downwards, and often a vicious circle may be set up: sickness causes unemployment or under-employment, which in turn helps to cause more sickness. Poverty may also affect health in more subtle ways: it may breed apathy, or it may breed resentment and aggression, and not only welfare authorities but also the medical profession may come to be amongst the ‘them’ who are on the other side9. There is no doubt that sickness and disability almost inevitably do mean extra expense. If a disabled person lives alone, help may have to be paid for, and even the most trivial household repairs become expensive. People whose functioning is impaired cannot shop efficiently and there may be extra expenses for diets and clothing10.
Fourthly, the rehabilitation of the disabled to be economically dependent and to restore them in the eyes of the society to live in dignity is beset with a number of attitudinal problems. The attitude of indifference towards the disabled has played havoc with their lives. Unfortunately this negative attitude continues to reflect at all levels: be it at the policy, planning or implementation level. It is well known that poverty and physical impairment are correlated. According to F.C Shontz (1971), and C. P. Baldwin and A.L. Baldwin (1974), the disabilities are associated with or produce certain behavioral and personality characteristics, or that disability in itself constitutes sufficient cause for psychological maladjustment11. The psychological aspect of disability may be more handicapping than the physical aspect. It realizes that a psychosocial look at disability problems is imperative. The disability imposes certain limitations and is felt as a loss or denial of something valuable. The social-psychological conditions which hamper adjustment and those facilitate constructive efforts. These matters are in the domain of what has been called the somato-psychological relation, a relation dealing with “those variations in physic that affects the psychological situation of a person by influencing the effectiveness of his body as a tool for actions or by serving as a stimulus to himself or others”12.
Fifthly, The disabled people constitute the weakest segment of the population of any county. In a welfare state, a disabled persons have a right to an adequate means of earning a living, first as a citizen of the country, and then as a disabled person. A society must be committed to the provision of services to educate the disabled, to place them in employment and to protect them from exploitation and to ensure their well-being. Among them, the locomotor disabled are provided with special services. The presence of significant impairments may exert considerable influence on the life style and life satisfaction of the individual. They suffer not only from physicals deformity and sense of inferiority, but they face constantly the agony of impairment and, very often, cruel treatment by their own people, who ought to know better, and discrimination by society whether in education, employment, social life or contractual rights. The obstacles that the disability interposes may be as much social in character as physical. With some disabilities, as in facial disfigurement, the handicapping factors reside almost entirely in negative social implications13.
Sixthly, There is no doubt that working life is one of the most important areas where problems may arise for the disabled persons. For many people, especially those with little education, training or skill, a single serious illness or accident which leaves them a little less fit than they were before can mean a sudden change in their whole life pattern. If a man has only his strength to offer to the labor market, he may become devalued overnight. He may be able to remake his life, or he may not. On the other hand, chronic or recurrent illness can set in motion a slow downward spiral. Again, there may be points where it could be arrested, where official or family and community resources could provide a new start. Rarely, a man in this position may himself find the resources to re-plan his life, to take definite and positive steps to break out of a vicious circle. For the most part, he is likely to feel trapped in an environment too powerful for him to overcome by his own efforts14.
Finally, it can be concluded that the persons with disability, and those who work with the disabled, have problems in two related areas. One problem involves capacities and aptitudes, abilities and disabilities. The second has to do with levels of motivation and the setting of realistic levels of aspiration. The problems of establishing realistic levels of aspiration in the social, personal adjustment, educational and occupational areas are much more complex. It not only involves the individual himself, particularly his self-concept, but also his family, school and community indeed his whole society15. The adjustment support in the above discussed areas is the remedy in confidence building of persons with disabilities to over come the adjustment problems.
Dr. Kannekanti Parameshwar
MSW (HR)., MA., LL.B., M.Phil., Ph.D.
Vocational Rehabilitation Centre for Handicapped
Government of India, Bangalore
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