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The freedom to make rightful decisions. - Guest column by Jasmina Khanna

In our guest column this week, Jasmina Khanna, a systems analyst based in Mumbai, talks about the importance of acknowledging the fact that people with disabilities have the right to make their own decisions, independently.

A couple of months ago I read an article about a man from Canada named Justin Clark. He was born with cerebral palsy. His fight for Independence changed the scene in disability rights movement in Canada. I am sharing the link of the article at the end of this blog.

Way back in 1982 when he was just 20 years old Justin decided to take his parents to the court of law. He did not have any enmity with his family. He loved them immensely.

Now you may ask what was the reason for Justin to take his parents to the court of law? Well, like most parents of a person with disability, his parents were overprotective about him. They wouldn't let him take his own decisions in life. He may have been physically dependent on others throughout his life but intellectually he was fully capable of deciding for himself. I can very well imagine how tough it might have been to take such a drastic step for Justin. I salute his guts to be able to do this. Justin won the lawsuit thus paving the path to live rightfully and with dignity for many more disabled people in Canada.

I can very well relate to what Justin must have gone through. Most of the time it has been observed that adults with disabilities are treated like children by their family members. In western countries, this attitude may have changed to a great extent. But in India, it is still very much evident. He or she may be in their 30s or 40s yet they are referred to as children with disabilities. Not only do parents treat them as a small kid but even their younger siblings and cousins also regard them like a child.

Loving Ties that bind

Often even though a person with disability is intellectually capable of doing many things in life yet he/she is made to feel that they are good for nothing. He/she is not given the freedom to think for themselves. The power to make decisions about their lives is taken away from them, thus making them dependent mentally too. From my experience as a disabled person and interacting with other people with disability I have noticed that they take permission to do the smallest things from their family members.

For example, if they go for shopping with their family members and if they like something, they will not say I want to buy this. Instead, they will seek permission to buy that particular thing just like a child would ask. In many cases, I have seen parents and family members set a timetable for a disabled family member just as they do it for children even though he/she may be an adult. When they will sleep, wake up, eat, even what they will eat is decided for them by their parents or other members of the family.

The behaviour of the family members of people with disabilities transpires into the society at large. The society will treat people with disabilities just the way their family members treat them. To bring about an attitudinal change at the social level the mindsets of family members of people with disabilities needs to change.

People with disabilities are human beings just like so-called normal people. They too have similar emotions, desires, aspirations just as others. All they need is wings to fulfil their dreams. The freedom to make rightful decisions about their lives.

Read about Justin Clark's journey towards independence here - https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/november-25-2018-the-sunday-edition-with-michael-enright-1.4911588/how-justin-clark-s-fight-for-independence-transformed-disability-rights-in-canada-1.4911590

This article was first published here - https://jastalkingaloudcom.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/the-freedom-to-make-rightful-decisions/

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