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PM Modi recently used the term ‘dyslexia’ as a joke to get back at Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi, and the attendees found it funny! Those who suffer from it deserve better.
Recently Dyslexia has been making news in India for all the wrong reasons, apparently. PM Modi while interacting with participants of ‘Smart India Hackathon 2019’ through a video conference interjected an engineering student’s proposal of a program that could help dyslexic children with a joke that was an intended jibe at the Congress Chairperson Rahul Gandhi and his mother.
Online spaces since then have been resonating with severe criticism of this blatant insensitivity and insult towards children and families battling dyslexia.
Dyslexia is one of the commonest learning disorders that affects about 3-7% of human population, some traits however are present in people up to 17-20%. According to estimates India might have around 10 million cases of dyslexia per year.
It affects reading, writing and hence overall learning skills but is not considered a marker for intelligence. Various achievers worldwide have been dyslexic ranging from Einstein to Leonardo da Vinci and John F Kennedy to Alexander Graham Bell.
It is believed and proven that dyslexic individuals often possess higher than average IQ, have inquisitive minds and an undying dedication, and with effort and support they not only learn to perform routine tasks at par with non-dyslexics but also are equally capable of being achievers.
But the state of awareness in India regarding challenges like dyslexia is still dismal and hence the lack of insensitivity from both a national leader and his audience in the session who were laughing at the said “joke” is nothing less than appalling. And these are the cream of Indian youth, who have qualified for the top bracket Smart India Hackathon, and who are supposed to be better informed!
This lack of empathy about invisible challenges like dyslexia in India leads to insensitivity and exploitation amounting to cruelty often by family, friends and sometimes even healthcare/education professionals.
The National Health Portal of Government of India has NO information regarding Dyslexia till date. It isn’t any wonder that the so called educated of our country still find the using of a disorder as a slur amusing. A shame!
What the survivors of these disorders deserve from our government and society is consistent on-going support and encouragement and not further stigmatising and ridicule. Our education system also needs to step up and not only provide dyslexics a fair and equal education that is their right but also creates non-dyslexics who support and encourage and not make fun of the survivors.
The need of the hour is to keep raising our voices in India against such gross public apathy towards the survivors of dyslexia and other similar disorders, and aim at creating a more sensitive and civilised society in the future.
Images source: YouTube, and a still from the movie Taare Zameen Par
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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.
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