Not a “charity” or “burden”, Lawyer and accessibility activist, Sana Khurshid wants you to broaden your vision when looking at people with disabilities.
Sana is a lawyer and activist for accessibility and equal rights of the disabled. Not letting a car accident which left her paralyzed from the neckdown stand in her way, Sana was determined to fight and make it on her own. We sat down for a quick chat with her to get her to know better…
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Sana Khushid. I’m a lawyer, an activist for accessibility and equal rights for people with disabilities. As a teenager I was involved in a car accident which left me as a quadriplegic. After multiple surgeries, countless near-death experiences, two stints in rehabilitation in UK, I finally found the courage to pick up my broken pieces and started to make a new life for myself. In spite of having no hand function I have done LLB and then LLM.
2. What are the petitions you’ve been working on regarding accessibility and rights of disabled people?
In 2018, in collaboration with GSC Law Firm, I filed a writ petition before the Lahore High Court seeking for implementation of LDA’s specific regulation that requires public buildings to provide ramps and toilets for wheelchair users/ differently abled persons. Unfortunately, the writ did not gain traction, and no result came out of it.
Recently, we filed a fresh writ petition and we impleaded the DHA and the Government of Punjab as well as LDA. This time, the Honorable Judge has proactively directed/demand the Respondents to provide for speedy implementations of the regulations/laws pertaining towards improving the plight of the differently-abled in their pursuit of life, liberty, and dignity (which includes provision of ramps and toilets in public facilities).
The LDA has gone over and beyond the Court directions to accommodate our proposals regarding issues faced by people with different disabilities.
3. What is the current landscape of accessibility for the differently-abled, especially in education, employment, and public spaces?
Our public/commercial buildings are not made for people with disabilities. They have not been considered in the design process. A basic thing like access has been denied to people with mobility issues!
People with disabilities belong to one of the most marginalized segments of our society. The word ‘disability’ has such a negative connotation attached to it especially in Urdu! We associate disability with negative words like ‘burden’ ‘charity’ etc. This is the mindset with which the differently abled are viewed with and it does not help to live in a country where there are no facilities available for people with disabilities for them to live an independent and dignified life. The state has systematically made people with disabilities feel invisible, unwanted, and unwelcomed as a part of its fabric.
Women and especially women with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable part of our society. They are placed at a higher risk of violence including stigma, discrimination, and ignorance about disability, as well as a lack of social support for those who care or them.
4. The year is 2030, what is the future you see for the differently abled, provided there has been effective policymaking and implementation?
I have a few plans in my mind but let’s see what happens. My journey of making Pakistan accessible has just began! I feel the future is bright InshAllah!
5. What would you want people to be mindful of and learn, when it comes to dealing with the differently-abled?
People view people with disabilities through a very narrow lens. They focus on the things they can’t do. What people with special needs are, is that they are differently abled. They can almost do everything an able-bodied person does but slightly differently.
It may take us longer to do simple tasks but we do get there eventually. Our methods might be unconventional but we do get things done. We adapt to a new life where we challenge ourselves and get creative in living a complete life. Our ‘normal’ might be different than yours but it is our way of life because we are people with different abilities and capabilities.
If we start accepting differently-abled people as equals, all issues faced by them will be resolved!