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