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How disabled people can expedite their inclusion in society - Guest column by Turab Chimthanawala

December 6, 2018

In this thought provoking column, guest writer Turab Chimthanawala, who is a partially sighted company secretary, shares his views on what steps disabled people must take to move from dependence to inter-dependence.

The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons on 3 December is one of the many efforts by the United Nations to create international awareness and acceptance for the unique needs and abilities of the disabled community. It was proclaimed in 1992 by the UN General Assembly.

This year's theme focuses on empowering disabled people for an inclusive, equitable and sustainable development as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda pledges the principle, "leave no one behind", and calls on governments, persons with disabilities and their organizations, academic institutions and the private sector to work as a team to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

A disabled person's progress and his contribution to national and global development greatly depends on suitable adjustments in society to encompass his unique needs and challenges. This involves infrastructural changes, that is retrofitting public buildings, transport facilities etc., as also changes in people's attitudes, perceptions and behaviours, like being more openminded, patient and considerate.

However, while the society has to certainly play its part, it is imperative on every disabled person's part to take appropriate measures to expedite his inclusion and acceptance in society. Hereunder I mention some of these tools which I have learnt, being partially sighted since birth, especially over the last year where I have been living independently in unfamiliar settings.

Learn to adapt

At the outset it is vital to accept that physical disability is only a small exception and not the order of society! Though, evidence may show that disabled people are the largest vulnerable' group, we still hardly make up the numbers. While reasonable accommodation in all spheres is certainly every disabled person's right, we cannot demand concessions all the time. We have to learn to acclimatise, adjust and on some occasions compromise. While the able-bodied (jargon for the non-disabled) may be paid from the first day of internship, being disabled we may have to forgo salary (even after qualification) to get our foot in the door!

Well wishers and experiences have made me appreciate that the able-bodied are not always equipped to interact and deal with disabled people and hence often our lack of participation or even non-inclusion in many social events and adventures. Thus, rather than waiting for people's invitations, our acceptance would be much faster if we make the first move.

On joining a new company, a disabled person is more likely to be a part of the informal groupings if he himself initiates conversation with his colleagues rather than awaiting their invitation. Besides initiation, it is also imperative that the disabled person actively participate and "be visible".

Introversion and disability are a very undesirable combination. A disabled person has to continuously draw people's attention towards his skill sets and qualities so that they look beyond his disability. Thus, in order to be elected to the student council, a disabled person has to actively participate in classroom discussions and college events so that the teachers and other students overlook his disability while voting.

To expedite our societal acceptance, we as disabled people must also add value to other's lives. This may be by knowledge, humour, material or if nothing simply love, warmth and affection. If we transform into a "giver" from a "taker", life would be a lot easier.

Notwithstanding the above, the most significant key to our inclusion in society is to learn to appreciate. We must realise that disability however, grievous or troublesome, is our own problem for which society has no fault! Helping the needy and less abled, though engrained in all moral and religious teachings, is definitely not a fundamental duty. Thus, save for availing paid services, we must feel obliged and grateful for whatever support, assistance and guidance we get.

These are some pointers that I have grasped through my experiences and observations thus far. Cutting the long tale short, if we move from dependence to interdependence, we would certainly be welcome by society.

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