Disability and its all-encompassing tentacles on the society at large

What is disability? A google search will avail you an avalanche of information on it. There are definitions variating from, a disability is any condition of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to do certain activities and interact with the world around them.
Or it is something that is attributable to an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments.
Disability in a broader sense, may be defined as a health situation whether physical or mental that prevents a person from living his life to the fullest.
The plight of the disabled were recently pushed to the forefront when in a historic first the White House released a statement, one year into the pandemic, citing the need to prioritize Americans with disabilities – including those people who were left with lingering disabilities caused by Covid-19.  Just like certain marginalised groups, people with disabilities have been one of the hardest hit people by the pandemic. Many scientific studies estimate, a minimum of (10 and 30%) of people who contract COVID-19 experience lingering symptoms, or what has become known as “long-haul Covid.” That can also be categorised as a disability.
This column hopes to throw light on this dilemma and increase awareness of the need to include people with disabilities in humanitarian actions and sustainable development.
Although, world over the physical and mental aspect of it, is very much recognised, it is occasionally forgotten that this is an extensive issue. The physical and mental anguish is only the tip of the ice berg. Most of the anguish is submerged underneath and it is a can of worms- waiting to be opened! The World Health Organisation, says that, over one billion people, (about 15% of the global population), live with some or the other form of disability and this number is only increasing. Since 1992, December 3rd is recognised as the International Day of disabled persons or World disability day.
Talking about disability as a whole, recently it was understood that the usage of the word ‘disable’ is infact a wrong connotation. They should be addressed as “differently abled”. They are differently abled because they possess a unique set of abilities and perspectives. Every human being has their own unique abilities. It is all about acknowledging it.
In conclusion, I would say that, oftentimes, differently abled people see what we can't, hear what we can't and think what we can't. This makes their ability different – not inferior, not superior – just different! When someone is diagnosed with a condition (like autism), they are not ‘autistic’, that shouldn’t be their label. They ‘HAVE’ autism. Who they are as a person is not impacted by a medical condition/diagnosis, and it surely doesn't contribute to their identity.
It is important that we treat such people with compassion. Do not always assume they need our help. It would be beneficial to gauge their situation first and then do the needful. Treat them as equals. Show restraint and be patient while dealing with those with speech disability or impairment, as they take some time to finish their sentences. Do not try to interrupt the flow of speech by trying to complete their sentences. Most differently abled people lack self-esteem and confidence. Always make eye contact while talking and do not try to strike up a conversation around their disabilities. If you are conversing with a person in a wheelchair sit down and talk face-to-face, instead of talking down to them.
The elusive COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent stringent lockdowns, with social distancing norms and having to wear face masks at all times in public spaces have left its impact on the world. So, it is a given that it has affected the ease of living of persons with disabilities as well. Nonetheless, we can help them with some simple steps by helping to ensure that differently abled people can obtain what they need on a daily basis and assure one and all of an inclusive, cooperative and kind society.

Until next time – Take care, be healthy and God bless you!


*Image taken from google.

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