When you live with a Disability in India, there are a number of Government schemes and initiatives available to support you – as long as you can present a ‘Disability Certificate’ to prove you are 40% disabled.
However, for the Persons with Disability (PwD) in M East Ward, obtaining certificates are proving elusive due to a lack of hospital staff to diagnose and certify them, which exacerbates their daily struggles.
PwD face challenges on a daily basis – one of the key problems being the physical and financial barriers to accessing healthcare facilities. The Government of India (GOI) has several healthcare schemes for PwD, but to avail those schemes, a disability certificate is necessary.
“It is very difficult to obtain the certificates because the hospitals in the Mumbai Suburban area lack the specialised facilities and staff to diagnose type and extent of disability. When we approach other hospitals, they refuse citing grounds of jurisdiction. There is a huge gap between theory and practice – certificates are supposed to be issued by the medical boards of district civil hospitals, as directed by GOI, but that is frankly, not the case,” said Sanjay Bamane, Programme Manager for Apnalaya’s Disability programme.
In order to tackle this problem, staff members from Apnalaya’s Disability programme have been supporting residents of M East Ward in getting certificates, and since 2016, have facilitated 161 Disability Certificates for PwD.
To an outsider, it may seem small, but the lives of PwD are significantly impacted as a result. The holder of a Disability Certificate is eligible for various types of support – scholarships, loans, government schemes, appliances and even an unemployment allowance.
Of particular benefit, is access to free public transport. In Maharashtra, when a PwD travels by BEST buses, if they hold a Disability Certificate, they can travel for free. In local trains, there are different coaches provided for PwD which enable ease in travel.
Muhammad Taufiq Sheikh (40) is physically handicapped and lives in a shack near the Deonar Dumping ground with his wife (who is also a PwD) and his two sons. Like so many others, Taufiq has not received his Disability Certificate.
Taufiq makes a living selling eggs in Shivaji Nagar and is also supported by Apnalaya’s Livelihood programme to help grow his business. “It gets very difficult for me to sustain my family, it would be easier if we got the Certificate. And though doctors have not identified her disability, my wife is in a more difficult state than I am,” said Taufiq.
Disability Certificates are just one aspect of Apnalaya’s Disability programme, which identifies children and adults with disabilities and provides medical, education and livelihood support. In addition to this, psychosocial support and counselling is provided to children and their parents through individual counselling and a variety of activities. From 2014 till date, Apnalaya has supported 1048 PwD in M East Ward.