ANANTA R. BAIDYA
The Americans with Disabilities Act, passed by the US Congress in 1990 is a milestone piece of legislature for persons with disabilities in the United States. It has enabled people with disabilities to live productive and meaningful lives despite their inabilities. This legislature enabled disabled children to go to school and expect equal treatment under the law. This has profoundly impacted their futures. The society has benefitted from this visionary piece of legislature! Nepal also has its share of disabled individuals. In the days ahead, Nepalese society will have to address the needs of the elderly population. The ongoing change in this society is going to mandate that something be done. The traditional model of the joint family has slowly started to change. The younger population is seeking their own independent living styles.
Tradition-bound parents or grandparents are having difficulty understanding these new trends. Many are opting for the nuclear family living arrangements. Thus, the older model of living in a joint family with the strengths and weaknesses of that system is slowly changing. Noticeable changes have been observed. In the more traditional system, the elderly and their needs were generally taken up by family members. In the traditional system, people with disabilities or those that were mentally or physically challenged were cocooned within the social traditional family networks! In reality, they have either been over-protected or over-ignored. Social stigmas and isolation have resulted for those that are disabled, mentally challenged or otherwise abled. Many may still recall how not too long how people with disabilities were addressed: the otherwise abled were showered with nick names because of their physical disability or mental capacity. Perhaps these were done in jest, out of ignorance or out of fear. All too often these people were outcasts in their own community and society. However, times have changed.
There are means and methods by which disabled can lead productive lives. The guarantees have to be provided through the legislative process so the disabled and children with disabilities can lead productive lives. Children with disabilities should be able to go to appropriate schools with appropriate physical structures to accommodate their need. The wheel chair bound or otherwise able person can safely navigate through the streets of Nepal. The elderly can get out of their homes on wheel chairs or canes or walkers and enjoy the bounty that is Nepal with all is endowment of peace and serenity, religious sites and places. Nepalese with disability act will be a reality for starters.