Re-setting priorities in a post Covid ‘new normal’. – By Ritu Prasad
Serial entrepreneur Ritu Prasad talks about the larger lessons brought home by COVID-19.
These are trying times for all of us – panic and anxiety grips the world and we are reevaluating everything. We are questioning our lifestyles, our engagement with nature, our value systems and even our existence. The lockdown has put a full stop to all our activities, essential and recreational both. People are coping with this “new normal” and hoping that this phase will end soon and they be able to resume their normal life. One truly hopes that this happens and we can reboot. For the longest time we felt invincible, not any more. Now we feel vulnerable and helpless.
Adapting to life after disability
Rewind 15 years when I met with a car accident that caused a spinal cord injury and left me paralysed on a wheelchair. I experienced panic, anxiety and depression because I realised I could never ever go back to my normal life again. The lockdown was permanent and the only way to deal with it was to create a sustainable “new normal”. I tried to adapt and modify my internal environment by buying aids like shifting board that helped me transfer from my wheelchair to bed, wheelchair to my car and vice versa. I shifted to the ground floor, organised a caregiver and did various other things that were financially and logically viable. I tried to do everything that I could to feel less vulnerable and helpless.
The question then was: How do I manoeuvre my external environment? Like going to my restaurant which was on the first floor with no access to a lift from front. Going to the paediatrician with my children whose clinic entry door was too narrow for my wheelchair. Going to the nearby market with no ramps. What do people with disabilities do to get around in this city or even in this country. There are close to 100 million people with different kind of disabilities in India be it locomotor, visual, hearing or any other. Are we equipped as a country to give them a sustainable life? Is the number large enough to deserve attention? Do we need a pandemic to recognise that we have gone wrong as a society in our priorities?
My experience over the last 15 years is that we are the invisible section of society which is not even recognised as large enough to be included in the mainstream, let alone be prioritised and provided for. How are we as a society ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities in education, employment, travel, entertainment and all the other things that they are entitled to? The answer is we are not. Is it because we feel that the probability that we will be in the same boat is zilch and therefore we needn’t worry? Didn’t we feel the same way about ourselves before the pandemic?
I do hope that at times like these when all of us as individuals and as a society are introspecting and realigning ourselves, we can envision a society which is equitable and more compassionate in all dimensions, with respect to nature and with respect to each other.
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