One doctor’s disability may lead to curriculum change in IndiaBMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l4215 (Published 25 June 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l4215
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The article by Salian P was read with utmost interest (1). I agree with the author that there is discrimination against disabled people in India especially in connection with Jobs and entry to medical education.
It is very difficult for disabled people, especially the hearing impaired, to get Jobs in India despite being qualified and academically brilliant. Hearing loss is an invisible disability which has profound impact on communication (2). Even if your curriculum vitae is filled with academic brilliance, but you happened to be hearing impaired, you could come across some insensitive questions in job interviews like “you cannot answer even simple questions. How will you be able to manage the Job?”. That is to say the employers focus more on the hearing disability rather than the ability and academic record of the candidate. The employers have a presumption that the disabled candidates are non productive and cannot handle the job because of disability. Even before giving an opportunity to the candidate, they tend to be biased and label them as incapable.
Even if disabled people get a job, things are not easier for them. Though the disabled employees work with their full capacity, honesty, sincerity and loyalty, the employers often don’t recognize/accept it and rather often focus on the disability aspects. Disabled employees sometimes feel that whatever hard work they do, ultimately it is their disability which is going to be taken into consideration by employers. The employers are not worried about the suffering of disabled employees because they know that their decisions no matter what will be accepted by disabled employees without question because of fear of losing their jobs. Now a days everywhere you hear about the gender pay gap. But sadly there is no news about the existence of pay gaps and promotional discrepancies between the disabled and normal teaching employees with similar teaching experiences especially in private institutions. Hearing impaired employees are often excluded from active participation in group discussions, meetings, programmes, academic decision making, and committees, etc. If this continues over the years, these employees' self esteem and productivity would decrease because of such continued exclusion, abuse and discrimination; despite having high qualifications and a brilliant academic record. They often have to swallow the repeated inappropriate comments from superiors which are directed often on their disability.
Colleges and Universities in India to date do not have dedicated centers where the disabled employees can share their problems, experiences and incidences of discrimination and get them resolved. In simple words, disabled employees do not know whom to contact or where to contact to get solutions for the problems they experience in day to day work life. Colleges and Universities of India, even today do not offer assistive devices or facilities for hearing impaired employees to experience a smooth unhindered work place environment. Hearing impaired students are also discriminated in admission to medical courses. Medical council of India (MCI) has recently made guidelines that the candidates with hearing loss 40% or above are ineligible to enter the medical courses (3). This means that a section of disabled people who aspired to become a medical professional have to give up on their dreams because of the discriminatory MCI regulations. It is well known that candidates with 40% or more hearing loss could wear hearing aids and adequately hear well; and also use emerging technologies to perform well in medical courses.
The Indian government should enact strict laws to protect the disabled people from discrimination, abuse and exclusion in Jobs and education. Colleges and Universities should be mandatorily directed to set up centers for hearing the problems faced by disabled employees and students and offer prompt solutions. Assistive devices/ facilities should be available to all the disabled employees and students inside the campus. Colleges and Universities in India should be directed to mandatorily send the feedback form from disabled employees and students to University Grants Commission (UGC), state government and central government every 6 months. They should be told to send a report on the quality of work/ study environment experienced by the disabled employees and students in their campus. Colleges and Universities should also be instructed to send a report regularly to the UGC about the salary paid to disabled employees with their teaching experience and qualifications and give a declaration that no discrimination/ exclusion have been made against the disabled employees. Laws should be enacted that colleges and universities should mandatorily hire qualified disabled employees for work and admit disabled students for education without any discrimination. The reports submitted by the colleges and universities should be verified by detailed onsite inspection. Colleges and Universities which do not conform to the laws should be debarred from functioning and sued in the court of law by the government/ governing body. Unless there are stricter laws in India to protect the disabled employees and students against discrimination, exclusion and abuse, these would go on without any check. It is to be hoped that the Indian government will bring these laws to improve the quality of living of disabled employees and help them to live a dignified and respectful life.
1. Salian P. One doctor’s disability may lead to curriculum change in India. BMJ 2019;365:l4215
2. Vagish Kumar L S. Need for organizational support for faculty with hearing loss. American annals of the deaf. 2015;160(4):344-346.
3. Singh S. Medical council of India's new guidelines on admission of persons with specified disabilities: unfair, discriminatory and unlawful. Indian Journal of Medical Ethics. 2019;4(1):29-34.
Competing interests: No competing interests