We need more than just food, clothing & shelter! – Guest column by Dhanya Ravi
Our guest columnist today is disability rights activist Dhanya Ravi. A motivational speaker, she is also co-founder of NGO Aasman Foundation that empowers people with disabilities.
What do you think are necessities of persons with disabilities?
If your answer is food, clothing and shelter, then you are wrong. In fact, you would have been correct if you answered this a few decades back. We have moved quite fast from those olden days.
In January 2020, the Supreme Court of India declared that the right to have access to the internet is the fundamental fight of every citizen. Earlier the United Nations had also observed that disconnecting people from the internet is a human rights violation.
Few opportunities to build social, emotional connections
It amuses me that in an age where we acknowledge the Internet as a basic necessity, we hardly acknowledge social connection and intimacy as a basic need. While this may not make much of a difference in most of our lives, it certainly will in the case of persons with disabilities. It is often forgotten that persons with disabilities have the same feelings, needs and desires as everyone else. In fact, according to the Principle of reasonable accommodation to ensure persons with disabilities enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others is human rights and fundamental freedom. Article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities signed by 163 nations, demands all these aspects of life including inclusive education.
Let me clarify that when I am speaking about intimacy, I am not just speaking about physical intimacy here, but equally about the emotional and social intimacy. Who would not like to be seen, heard, acknowledged and appreciated by others? Who would not like having friends with whom they can share their heart out? Who would not like the warmth of a loving touch, hug, and a kiss?
Absence of connections can be lonely & dangerous
As most people with disabilities don’t get the opportunity to go to schools or workplaces, the opportunity to make these connections gets limited. Their friend circle often gets limited to their cousins and neighbours. This coupled with the lack of sexual and emotional literacy exposes them to the danger of getting sexually exploited.
The most important factor when it comes to expressing our love for others is the way we love ourselves. Our partners are just a mere reflection of our soul. Every human in this world has imperfections in the society’s eyes. However, the imperfections in one person’s eye may not necessarily be an imperfection in another person’s eyes. When we accept our self the way we are, we also accept our partner the way they are. Thus, we liberate from the societal expectations. Definition of love and the freedom that comes along with liberation is unmatched.
The feeling of love does not discriminate between any beings in this world. The way of expressing love may differ from one person to other. Some believe physical intimacy is the be-all and end-all of every relationship. However, every human has a unique way of expression. For some, just a mere touch sparks joy and happiness. For others, having a healthy conversation makes them feel complete. Such levels of feelings cannot be measured and neither be compared.
Intimacy a critical need
We all need intimacy. That is being able to touch, hold hands, talk, hug, kiss or sensuality. It is a natural kinship that helps to rewire the connections between the body, mind and enhance the relationship between both self and a partner if you have one. Mature and respectful intimacy is as valuable as it is and appropriately safe. This may help them feel more confident and less guilty about their needs. The needs of every human being are the same.
Just that the way of feeling or expression might differ. As a society, if we honour and accept them the way they are, the shortcomings are never a hindrance to living a happy life.