A woman in a wheelchair claims she was denied entry at a posh pub in Gurugram over the weekend. Taking to Twitter to voice her complaints, Srishti Pandey in a now-viral thread said the pub staff allegedly told her that the other customers will “get disturbed” if she was given access to indoor seating. The management at the pub told the press that Pandey was told to sit outdoors for her own safety, citing a rush inside.
“Should I stop going out at all only then? Because apparently I don’t belong with others. Because I’m a “disturbance” for others. Because their moods apparently get “ruined” after looking at me. I am heartbroken. Awfully sad. And I feel disgusted,” Pandey wrote.
It is no secret that much of our society, even today, remains shamefully inaccessible to certain sections of people. Those with disability constitute one such group. Be it everyday conveniences to recreational services, for the most part, the ground isn’t level for disabled people to feel equal to the non-disabled. What’s more troubling is that the effort being made to pave the way towards equality is next to negligible.
Why must ‘able-bodied’ citizens set the rules of acceptability and drive the norm? What gives people not bound to wheelchairs the entitlement to make discriminatory decisions for those who are? Should our development plans not prioritise the introduction and implementation of accessibility across services and facilities for all?
Raasta Wheelchair Controversy: Here’s What Happened
As per her Twitter thread, Pandey was on an outing with her friends and family on February 11. They went to Raasta, an upscaled lounge and bar, in Gurugram. Pandey claims the desk staff ignored their request for a table twice, before telling them, “wheelchair andar nahi jaygi.” (The wheelchair won’t go inside.)
“We thought it was an accessibility issue, but it wasn’t. We told him that we’d manage, just book us a table. What he said next left all of shocked for a while… He told us pointing towards me that “andar customers disturb hojaynge” (The customers will get disturbed) and denied us entry, with so much of ease.”
The staff allegedly told the group to get outdoor seating but Pandey says, “It was getting cold. And I can’t sit out in cold for long because my body gets spastic. It’s literally unsafe for me? Why should I be made to sit outside anyway? segregated from everyone else? If we wanted an outside seating we would have asked for it? Eventually we were asked to leave. Obviously.”
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Responding to Pandey, Goumtesh Singh, the founder-partner at Raasta, wrote he was personally looking into the incident and apologised on behalf of his team, assuring her of action “if any of our members is found in the wrong.” The manager of the pub who interacted with the party, meanwhile, told The Print, “We didn’t allow her for safety reasons, but never denied her services.”
Who decides what normal is?
Far from inclusivity, disabled people have forever been treated with either revulsion or condescension. Their physical conditions are viewed as weaknesses, serving as points to remind them consciously or unconsciously that they are ‘lesser’ individuals. That they do not deserve dignity equal to ‘normal’ people.
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Our inherent prejudices become apparent in actions both big and small, explicit and implicit. For instance, the absence of ramps from many public places or the lack of assistive services or interpreters during crucial speeches announcements. Or brutish rejections of disabled people from places of leisure or work.
Speaking to SheThePeople last year, disability activist Nidhi Goyal laid out the inequalities people with disability in India were subjected to, especially during the pandemic. “I don’t think we’re even thinking of everyone, and then within that, persons with disability at all.” Read the full report here.
Over two percent of India’s population is disabled, as per the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. We’re living in the 21st century – a time when the discourse on fairness should have gone far past the disgraceful point of discussing whether or not people with disability should be allowed into certain spaces or not. This inclusivity should have been embraced vigorously years ago.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
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