Taraneh Miladi

Unlike their parents, children do not forget a phenomenon, if they believe in it. As a matter of fact, if we want to eradicate inaccurate beliefs, provide equal opportunities, and promote a proper culture toward disabled people in our society, we are required to adopt a suitable education system, especially for children.

Taraneh Miladi is the secretary general of the Association of Disabled People of Tehran. She is a writer of books for children and young adults. She is a social activist. Taraneh is also cooperating with NGOs which are involved in the disabled people’s affairs and activities. One of these NGOs is the BAVAR Institute. Miss. Miladi was afflicted with a pervasive bone disease during her childhood, when she was 13 years old, as a result of which she lost her ability to walk forever. So far, Taraneh Miladi has achieved numerous successes in cultural, social, and artistic fields at different levels. She has also received numerous awards and medals in national competitions. For instance, she was selected as award winner in the National Conference of Iranian Girls in 2006. We have made an interview with this advocate of the rights of disabled people. Here is the text of this interview:

Q: Would you please elaborate on the Association of Disabled People of Tehran?

A: This association is one of the 10 health-based associations affiliated to the Tehran Municipality. As its mission, the Association of Disabled People of Tehran facilitates effective cooperation among the associations that are actively involved in the affairs of disabled people throughout the city of Tehran. Some other objectives of our association are as follows: taking advantage of potentials and capabilities of disabled people in the delicate issue of urban development; urging the disabled people to get involved in social activities; and preparing the proper context for shifting the society’s negative outlook toward disabled individuals and their capabilities.

Q: In your opinion, what are the main obstacles for the materialization of your association’s objective in the city of Tehran?

A: I can say that the most important obstacle for disabled people to get involved in social activities is the improper condition of alleyways and streets of the city, because people with physical disability cannot move around in such improper alleyways and streets. Generally speaking, people who suffer from disability do not expect anything special from municipality authorities. It is their right to have easy access to all urban services and facilities. Easy access for all is an issue that has been greatly ignored in our urban development plans and construction. If this problem is settled, other problems will also be settled in a domino-like effect.

When we are talking of “access” for disabled individuals, we are not talking of the accessibility of a particular location. It is actually an approach which creates an accessible environment for all citizens and enhances the availability of all the facilities and services existing in that environment.

Q: How can we materialize our dream of having a city with total accessibility for all citizens?

A: In order to provide easy access for all in urban environments and buildings with old structures, the best and the most proper pattern is eradicating the obstacles. In new construction activities in the city of Tehran, providing public availability and accessibility of services is not so much expensive; however, either our construction contractors are unfamiliar with accessibility considerations or they take improper advantage of a condition in which there is no enough and proper supervision or control.

In fact the disabled people’s inability in getting easy access to urban facilities and environments is not due to their physical disability. Rather, it is rooted in the city’s disability in making urban facilities and environments adaptable to the needs and requirements of disabled individuals.

Our dream for having a city without any obstacles for disabled people to move around will not be materialized, unless all stakeholders realize the necessity of having such a city. The whole society should believe that disability is a phenomenon that can possibly happen to everyone. We should realize that all those who become old are prone to be exposed to physical disability and one’s health is not everlasting.

Q: Excluding the inappropriateness of roads and inaccessibility of alleyways in cities, what is the next significant challenge for the social participation of disabled individuals?

A: Perhaps we can refer to the society’s general attitude toward the concept of disability as the significant challenge for the social participation of disabled individuals. Nevertheless, we should not blame citizens in this regard. In fact, our citizens have not received necessary educations so that they can properly understand each other’s potentials and capabilities. The majority of the people in our society have envisaged a cliché attitude toward concepts such as capable or successful man. There is no room for disabled people in such a cliché. In other words, the majority of people in the society believe that a disabled person cannot become a capable, successful, and complete man. This is an awful condition.

Q: Do you believe that any proper education has been provided for children to differentiate among personal differences?

A: Fortunately, the BAVAR Institute has recently initiated a project entitled "We Can” in order to promote this culture. This project was implemented in primary schools of Tehran. Designed within the context of a cultural-educational festival, the “We Can” Project promoted the proper form of interaction between children and disabled individuals. I have written a book with the same title which has been published by the Office of Publications and Educational Technologies. This book has been extensively distributed among the students of Grade 3 in primary schools of Tehran. Distributed free of charge among students, my book provides an opportunity for students to look on their environment from the perspective of other individuals. It is, in fact, an exercise that helps the students to have an understanding of different conditions. Implementation of such projects and inclusion of such educational materials in school books can help a lot to the promotion and education of correct social behaviour during childhood.

Q: What is the significance of shifting from the prevalent social attitudes about the disabled people? To what extent this shift can improve the people’s outlook toward the disabled individuals?

A: The society requires education and training. It needs enhancement of awareness. We should make our children acquainted with differences of personalities and appearances. We are required to be convinced that different people have different capabilities. More importantly, our children should realize that each individual human being has its own potentials and capabilities. Our children should learn that beauty is something far beyond the appearance of people. Children should believe that having good humane features can beautify man and enlighten him. Our kids must understand that man is loveable and respectful, regardless of the level of his physical and mental capability. We should teach our children to respect differences among human beings. They should understand that the differences enhance the beauty of our lives. They should know that, by realizing the potentials bestowed on them by the almighty God and taking proper advantage of these capabilities, they can become exceptional and different human beings. We should introduce a different definition of exceptionality in the society. Unlike their parents, children will never forget a phenomenon in which they firmly believe. Through educating the people and promoting the accurate beliefs in society, we can, in fact, eliminate inaccurate beliefs, create equal opportunities for every citizen, and provide a proper context for the development of disabled people.

Q: In your opinion, which organization must assume the responsibility of educating the people and enhancing their social awareness in this regard?

A: Mass media can surely play a vitally important role and can assume the greatest responsibility in this regard. Nevertheless, this does not mean that others have no responsibility. Promoting the social culture is a route not a destination. Therefore, everybody should do his or her best in order to promote the social culture in all its different dimensions. In my opinion, an enhanced society is a society in which all citizens can, despite their differences, pursue their daily activities. No organization per se is able to settle all the problems of disabled people. Neither the Municipality nor the State Welfare Organization is capable enough to tackle with the problems of the people with physical disability. As a matter of fact, their problems have not been created overnight and we should not expect to solve them very rapidly. However, irresponsible behaviour of the concerned organizations and even the society can only result in the accumulation of problems for a group of people who have never experienced social equality.

Q: In your opinion, how can we provide equal opportunities for those individuals who are suffering from disability?

A: We should look at this issue from a broader aspect. There is no doubt that if people in a society respect each other and look at other individual’s problems as their own problems and do their best in order to settle those problems, then we will not experience a condition in which some segments of the society are faced with hardships and their unachievable rights are trampled on by other segments. We should refrain from categorizing the problems in our society based on gender, age, physical condition of individuals, etc. Based on this argument, it is meaningless to categorize our problems as, for instance, the disabled people’s problems, the younger generation’s problems, the women’s problems, the children’s problems, etc. All of us are living in the same society. All of us are in the same boat. Therefore, such categorizations are meaningless in our real lives. We require a public determination so that we can provide equal opportunities for all citizens.

Sunday 2019/3/17
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