GURGAON, September 5, 2013
“Though India has a sizeable population of people with special needs, the society still seems to be less receptive to such people and their needs. Unfortunately, sometimes even the educated people in India seem to lack the empathy for people with special needs and treat them as a burden,” this is what a U.S. resident and the mother of a teenaged boy with autism, who was discriminated against at a mall here, had to say following the unseemly incident.
The mother-son duo had to face discrimination at the hands of an “English-speaking” photo studio owner in DLF Phase-II here when they went there to get photographs clicked for a PAN card.
Attracted towards a balloon on the counter of a photo studio in Central Arcade, when the 15-year-old boy tried to reach out and grab it, the studio owner first asked the woman to take away the teenager and later flatly refused to click their pictures.
Appalled by the insensitive behaviour, the boy’s mother Harshita Mahajan, recalled how the shop owner just refused to tolerate her son inside the shop despite she trying to reason with him that the boy had to be with her and even offering to pay for any damages.
“I created a scene at the shop over it because people should know about it. Such behaviour should not be tolerated. The people with special needs also have a right to be as much part of society as anyone else. They should be allowed to use public spaces like malls, shops and parks. They should not be discriminated against. They need a bit of love and tolerance. After all, they did not ask to be born with disability. A healthy person today may also become dependent on others tomorrow,” said Ms. Mahajan, who also posted the incident on her Facebook page evoking immediate response from her friends.
Ms. Mahajan, a resident of Ohio in the United States, emphasised the need to sensitise the Indian society towards the people with special needs.
“In the United States, people have become more sensitised over the past two to three decades. I do not remember anybody taking a second look at my son in the US, whereas in India he is not even allowed inside a shop. In India, people who have children with special needs are scared to come out in the public. Their children are stared at, poked fun at. It needs to be changed. Those with special needs are wonderful human beings, they are pure. They are not involved in the kinds of horrific crimes that become the headlines of newspapers every other day,” Ms. Mahajan made a point.
Vikram, the shopkeeper, said: “The boy appeared to be normal, was not obeying his mother. He had broken a gift item and we only requested his mother not to take him inside the studio as he could damage the expensive cameras. My cousin is a special child and one of my employees is also deaf and dumb. It is not correct to say that we are insensitive.”