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Why does every person with disability (PWD) need to be a super-achiever to be able to gain our respect? Today on #WorldDisabiltyDay, let us look closely at this.
I have never been a fan of the word ‘disabled’. It just feels like you are attaching a label to a person just because they have to do things in a different way than most of us.
Most animals walk on four legs but a kangaroo doesn’t. But do we look at a kangaroo as a disabled animal? Or do we just let them be what they are and appreciate their uniqueness?
Why is it that PWDs can’t be like you and me, have the freedom to live the way they want to and make the same mistakes that you and I do without being judged? What is it about this condition that makes them inferior to us and that they must live the perfect life to win our admiration?
A lot of the media coverage about PWDs just focusses on people who have achieved some feat or accomplished something massive in their life, but while celebrating that achievement we always make the blunder of disrespecting them and overshadowing it by prefixing that success with these three words- ‘Despite being disabled…’
Sounds familiar? And if you still feel that ‘Despite being disabled….’ is not a slur, remove disabled and attach a word that represents your gender, sexual orientation, religion, caste, region, financial status etc. and maybe that will clear things up for you.
While I understand that people are trying to praise someone by highlighting that things may have been extraordinarily difficult for that person due to their disability and that their intentions are not to put them down but that’s exactly what they end up doing.
Part of the reason why we treat a PWD so differently is that we do not want to be in their place. We have been conditioned to think of them as the ‘other’.
Ask a PWD and they will tell you that even their most well-intentioned friends and family members look at them as a charity case. We constantly make them feel that their life has come to an end and that somehow they are not enough as a person.
Movies are the worst among them all in promoting this pity syndrome, though there have been some that handle the theme well – they’re the exceptions! If a movie character ends up with some form of disability due to an accident or otherwise, the whole event is depicted as if everything is ruined for that person and that they are now condemned for life. No wonder that this kind of inaccurate portrayal can lead to severe inferiority complex among those who have some form of disability and that they are being conditioned to depend on others for almost everything.
Such a portrayal also tells us that “being disabled is a curse” that needs to be avoided at all costs because otherwise, we will lose our superiority. This is a falsehood that needs to be addressed. I do get that losing the ability to do things in a particular way is not pleasant or convenient at all and it can lead to a number of hardships. But it doesn’t mean that you have lost the right to live.
I do not want to name any particular show or movie but there are a number of cases where people interact with a differently-abled person not to understand and learn from their life experience but to make money from their pain. Everything about how they depict their problem reeks of insensitivity. Their fake attitudes and lip service to disability might not be visible at first but it is there.
And this is not just reflected on Television but in real life as well. Sometimes we treat these people just as showpieces so that we can display them out in the open, garner sympathy from their problems and use that sympathy for our own benefit.
If you really want to help someone just support them in regaining their independence by building the necessary infrastructure that can help them carry out their daily tasks as conveniently as possible and stop looking at them as something to feel sorry for.
Most of our work and public spaces lack the necessary infrastructure like ramps. There have been many cases of PWDs being denied employment because companies did not have the necessary facilities. Can’t we do something about that?
We are not doing them any special favors by building such infrastructure. All that we are doing is making our spaces more inclusive. It is called being humane. If we cannot understand or accept that maybe we are the ones who are emotionally-disabled.
Image source: a still from the movie Margarita With a Straw
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