01 March 2024
Firoz can’t get a disability certificate
“Firoz can’t get a disability certificate.”
I was frustrated to hear the doctor’s utterance. We had already spent several hours filling an online form, then waiting in line. But the medic’s next line took me by surprise: “He isn’t eligible for a disability certificate because he’s not really disabled. We can fix this!”
In an inspiring journey of resilience and determination, Firoz's life took a remarkable turn, defying the limitations imposed by an accident and bureaucratic hurdles.
Firoz's childhood mishap left his leg bent, creating a life of challenge for him over the years. Despite his physical impediment, he embraced life with a bamboo pole for support, working tirelessly in a sweatshop to provide for his young family. The COVID-19 pandemic brought additional hardships, disrupting the informal economy and leaving Firoz and his family without shelter after their shanty town was demolished.
A glimmer of hope emerged as surgeons finally had the opportunity to address Firoz's leg in March 2023. The intricate process involved cutting the webbing, applying a skin graft, and inserting metal pins to gradually straighten his leg. Though in intense pain and discomfort, Firoz was remarkably joyous. ‘I just can’t wait to walk’, he told me cheerfully, ‘When I’m better, I’m going to do a job that requires a lot of walking’.
The subsequent months required patience and perseverance as Firoz underwent physiotherapy to regain mobility. Custom-made shoes and a supportive team facilitated his journey, from walker to cane and eventually walking independently. The final twist came when, upon returning to the disability office, Firoz was deemed eligible for a disability certificate due to the length difference in his legs.
Now Firoz is back at work. This is not a fairy tale – he is still working 14-hour days for a pittance. With both he and his wife working, they’ve been able to rent a better room, away from the railway tracks. He dreams of opening his own purse-making business; and, one day, of owning his own home. If he applies the same patience and persistence that he demonstrated through his treatment, perhaps he will be able to realise his dreams.
As Project J1143N continues to work in Lucknow’s slum communities, stories like Firoz's showcase the transformative power of access to medical care, government services, and education. In the face of adversity, Firoz's story reminds us that with resilience and support, dreams can indeed become reality.