Instagram campaign #DisabilityTwiceRemoved uses creative ways to shatter stereotypes about disabled people
Be it Madeline Stuart, the young Australian model who emerged as the most visible face of Down syndrome online or #CripTheVote, that uses Twitter to have conversations about voting and disability issues, online spaces have emerged as a great platform for people with disabilities to break down barriers and to tell their stories.
Hashtags #NotYourProp, #TheBarriersWeFace, and #WheelchairLife are helping disabled people connect, break stereotypes, and support each other. They offer a space to share experiences, post jokes, even simply for shock value. Taking a cue from international trends in disability rights, a group of Delhi University students have started a campaign on Instagram.
Called #DisabilityTwiceRemoved the campaign aims to shatter stereotypes about disabled people through videos and images of them doing things most people believe they are incapable of.
The campaign launched on 10 December, which is marked as International Human Rights Day, is the brainchild of Gayatri Sahai, who is pursuing her Master’s degree in development studies at Ambedkar University.
When someone says disability there is a notion attached to it, which is usually negative of Immobility, sad feelings, etc. Notions that I too had until I met people with disabilities while doing my graduation. Those stereotypes were broken for me when I met so many capable, inspiring students and teachers with disabilities and I want everyone else to see that too. - Gayatri Sahai, Delhi University student
The initial vision was to make a short film on this issue but that had to be abandoned for want of funds. Posting short videos of disabled people doing fun, quirky things, Sahai realized, would be an equally effective way to reach the 18-35 age group, which is the audience she is aiming at.
The campaign kicked off, literally, with a video of fellow student Anurag Kashyap, who has a locomotor disability, playing football.
“The video shows me, a person affected with polio, kicking a ball to score a goal”, says Kashyap. “The idea is to break stereotypes and socially constructed notions. Why can’t someone like me, who is disabled, play football? I am an active person like everyone else. In fact, I have just returned from a trek in Manali. The idea is to show the world that we can do everything”.
Every week, a video will be released showing a disabled person doing some activity that is routine, or fun or inspiring. The hope is that this will not just change notions but also encourage disabled people to become visible.
“Until and unless you can come forward and accept yourself and tell the world that you exist, things won’t change”, says Kashyap. “The fact is that disabled people want to come forward but their families and the world at large will not let them, and that is the mindset change #DisabilityTwiceRemoved hopes to enable”.
In the weeks ahead, the campaign will show a professor who uses a wheelchair chasing a thief – all fun and quirky approaches that cameraperson Guneet Sekhon hopes will provoke a change in attitude in everyone, people with and without disabilities. “The idea is to show that people with disabilities can do all the things that people without disabilities can”.
The idea of becoming visible and out there is something Turab Chimthanwala, a Mumbai-based company secretary who is visually impaired, strongly supports. “The more we show off our problems and the way we tackle them , the more acceptance and recognition we will get and social media gives us an attractive platform”.
India is waking up to the powerful effects of social media. The ripple effect of the #MeToo campaign and the dialogues it continues to generate is an example. The disability movement, too, could use the platform to engage wider audiences and initiate meaningful dialogue.
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