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Put on Encouraging Glasses to Look at Disability

August 28, 2018 | By

A positive approach of welcoming people with disability as an integral part of the society is required . A change of perception can move mountains.

disability sensitization

Avantika studies in the 8th grade. She finds moving in the school extremely hard and needs help to go to the library, computer lab or activity room. Why? Well, she is a wheelchair-user. She is dependent on others and feels uncomfortable to ask for help from friends.

Piyush avoids going out as he is unable to talk. He fell down when he was two years old and since then is unable to speak .He works in a private firm but since he is unable to communicate he prefers to be on his own.

Swastika was a premature baby and weak since birth. She took more time to cross her milestones but when she showed no signs of improvement her parents consulted a specialist. She had mild cerebral palsy. Her parents were devastated but started therapy to help her. When her mother took her in a bus people stared at Swastika and at times openly questioned her mother. Tired of the constant probing and to evade the questions in the eyes of judgmental people, Swastika’s mother, Sapna started commuting by private transport.

Varun loves talking to the birds loudly and is a happy boy. He is petrified of the whistling pressure cooker and even the ringing of the doorbell. Sometimes he gets panic attacks after hearing this harsh sound after which he starts shouting or throwing things around him. Varun is only 5 years old. Considering his behaviour the people call him names without understanding the reality that Varun is an Autistic child.

Avantika, Varun, Piyush or Swastika and several others like them have to make great efforts to stay buoyant only because they have a condition, although for no fault of their own. They have no power over their circumstances nor have they asked for it. But they are looked upon as Disabled, inferior and weak than the so called abled.

Disability of any kind and its severity is a sombre and everlasting state. Moreover, devoid of acceptability from family and society, it can have a deep and at times a devastating repercussion on persons and families. Disability affects each person in a dissimilar way depending on the person and the type of disability. Some persons with disability are able to live a comparatively independent and satisfying life where as others might need a lifetime support.

Every single person does have personal traits and abilities that can help him/her make a very positive contribution towards others and carve a niche in society.

How does the society perceive Disability?

This is indeed a million dollar question! Even today disability is looked at with narrow-mindedness, bias, isolation, disregard, apprehension and lack of concern. Besides, lack of accessibility and attitude hazards at school and work places, sometimes even at home make things tougher for people with disabilities, apart from the fallacies and mistaken ideas they have to face in the civil society.

It’s a heartbreaking reality that a lot of people do nurture firm but incorrect beliefs about people with disability. They assume that people having some kind of disability are incapable as well as unable to do anything without help. This mishmash of myths hugely influences the way the community reflects and behaves towards people with disability.

The lack of suitable insights and knowledge about disability, many a time provokes people to be openly hostile to say, a child shouting in a public place, without knowing that the child is autistic and has no control over his behaviour. Instead of making way for a wheelchair user, people keep gazing at the person with one hundred questions hovering in their eyes, and more so if she is a girl on the wheel chair, which only makes her feel more awkward.

The conditions are similar in educational institutions, public places like shops, restaurants or at work place where people with disabilities are working. The never ending looks, which clearly reflect negative emotions only discourage the people living with disabilities. Many a time, when parents face intolerance, they in turn get stressed and drained and vent their feelings on the children.

Why we do this?

Every single person should retrospect and ask as to WHY do we do this?  Who gives us the authority to decide their abilities? How are we superior and they inferior?  And many other questions to comprehend Disability;

Disability in simple terms means the non-ability to do something. The so called, normal person can do many things but at the same time is unable to do so many things at the same time. When we accept that person without any ifs and buts, then why do we not accept the people with disabilities in the same manner? Why do the people with disabilities have to always prove their mettle to get accepted in the main stream? The “You do this and you get this” approach has to change to “You try to do this and we are there to support you”.

The positive approach of welcoming people with disability as an integral part of the society will not only make life easier and better for them and their families but will also help them to live a life of dignity, which is their constitutional right like each one of us. It’s not difficult. A change of perception can move mountains.

You want to know how it feels; Blindfold yourself and find your way to the washroom. Sit on the wheelchair and navigate it in a public place. Try to locate an address from an unknown person without uttering a word. After this experiment you will understand the snags to reach your objective and will feel humbled. So imagine the hardships the people with disabilities are facing everyday and to make matters worse the lack of societal acceptance.

The CHANGE

Today the scenario is gradually shifting for the better. The mind-set towards looking at disability is also witnessing a shift because of the awareness and sensitivity created by social media. It has also happened because of the number of people with disabilities excelling in academics, sports and every field overcoming their impairment.

Friends, the next time you meet a person with disability do not hesitate to become friends. One warm smile will create wonders for a person with disability and do not wait for somebody else to take the initiative. If you extend one hand of warmth and friendship you will find ten more hands joining you. The world has enough space to accommodate all of us, therefore let’s unite and fight this menace called disability together.

Pic courtesy: Pixabay

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Aditi is pursuing her PHD doing freelance work with the state govt as well as reputed funding agencies from Tata Trusts, UNICEF, Oxfam. She was working in the Development Sector earlier. Her areas of expertise are Disability, Gender, Child rights and Accessibility. She has written for The Times of India and Indian Express. She writes for VIDURA, Grassroots, Coffee Bytes and Odisha Live on a variety of issues. Writing acts as a perfect stress buster for her.
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