Pagal”, an all too common adjective to be used in colloquial language among numerous Pakistanis. The word is regularly used between friends to point out how a certain act of their other friend is preeminently foolish. You may call your friend a “pagal” any time and it will all go down in good humor, some may even get a good laugh out of it.

But here’s the part that is easily forgotten, the same word that we use to make fun of our peers is routinely used to categorise a differently abled person as an incompetent member of our society. Where one group may find it perpetually comical, the other is disrespected every day because of the inconsideration of the majority.

This happens to be the case with just one group, there are hundreds of incidents everyday where the plight of the physically and mentally disabled individuals are ignored in Pakistan. From infants who are left in shelters to adults that are left in institutions. From mothers who are considered to be “cursed” with a disabled child to individuals who are themselves considered cursed. There are millions of stories where the differently abled are deemed as lesser members of our society through the language and the actions of the fully abled.

Pakistan is a country with an exponentially growing population where a large portion of the people live below the poverty line. As fewer pregnant women have access to proper healthcare, the statistics continue to worsen. Currently, 5.03% of Pakistan’s total population consists of differently abled persons. And as much as we would like to see them being facilitated by our society, many of them are confined within the walls of their homes or other institutions. This further hinders the integration of the physically disabled into the society (and later, into workplaces) even though their cognitive abilities may be as productive as any other individual’s. To bring such issues to light the UN celebrates December 3rd as International Day For People With Disability every year during which events are held all over the world to bring more awareness of the lives of the disabled to the rest of the world.

Efforts are being made by the Pakistani government to protect the rights of the differently abled. A bill for the welfare and rehabilitation of physically and mentally challenged individuals was passed by the assembly in 2014 that aimed to resolve difficulties that the differently abled face in their personal and professional lives. It declared reservation of a 2% job quota, set up a 14-member council to cater to the needs of the differently able and ensured the provision of other facilities in terms of cheaper and better healthcare services. Furthermore, the council aims to extend out stipends and scholarships to the disabled students. Through this initiative, the government of Pakistan intends to spread message of equality and a discrimination free society for the disabled.

Apart from this, Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal, an independent body that provides financial assistance to unprivileged citizens has so far donated 66660 wheelchairs among the needy. MD Pakistan Bait ul Mal Barrister Abid Waheed Sheikh has also taken crucial steps in the form of efforts such as conducting one of Asia’s biggest survey with the collaboration of WHO that highlighted the type, disease and measure of people with disabilities. The aim behind all of these programs is to uplift the moral and hopes of the differently abled individuals, to protect them from unjust discrimination and to make sure that we, as a society, benefit from their skills and abilities.