For those few seconds when your feet feel nothing, sitting in the same position they have gone into a deep sleep. Such have been some disability experiences. But one, and a better one, improving the senstivity towards the disabled proportion of the society is something that Dr. Sruti Mohapatra is trying to give.
From fighting for better facilities to awakening people towards sympathisation and ‘special’ connotation attached to people with disability, earning them only pity. The importance that their disability gets instead of their other sides. Also, the concept of disability is varied across the globe, some giving due reapect to mental illness. This whole thing makes for a good conversation, but let’s keep it for some other day and stick to just diacussing how experiencing disability in one of the workshops by Dr. Mohapatra was.
The first activity was to sit on the wheelchair. I did. And I did with some difficulty, with still some usage of the thighs. At that moment I thought only of a person who doesn’t even has any sense in the lower part. My arms worked a lot, learned a lot–to give the chair a direction, maintain the speed and the breaks. The up and down slopes posed the biggest troubles. To climb with those wheels even on a ramp seems difficult. It is not about how brave these people are, it is what anyone would do in their situation. However, the activity was to focus on difficulties they face due to architectural failures. The wheels are not the representation of disability, they are a symbol of progress, added opportunity that mobility offers.
The next was to walk blind folded.This, with our experience of those childhood games and at familiar environs, might appear to be easy, but that it isn’t. Forget about the stranger places that a person needs to go in their life, just substitute eyes with sticks.
The final one that I tried my hands on, pardon for this miscommunication, I tried my foot on was painting. The tryst with colours, the brush tucked in between the toes and the hands at our backs was a feeling of being back into the learning days.
It is almost re-learning things that one has never paid much heed to in their abled days of how they learned it first. For instance, learning how to hold a spoon, hold a glass, sit etc. by a person who has suffered a paralysis in their certain body parts.
The problems are many, but the senstivity that it should get is what one learns when they experience disability through such workshops. There are many accolades and milestone works that Dr. Sruti’s NGO Swabhiman has acheived. But the biggest one would be to infuse this acceptance of any kind of disability as normal and create a world accessible and full of wqual opportunities to them. That’s how they won’t be handicapped, handicapped by their exclusion from the society, the ignorance they face when certain development models are developed.
What the government is doing, how Swabhiman has worked towards this goal and what else is required to be done, I believe I’ll be able to diacuss with some more research and insight. Till then, it’s on you to finally start observing the environ and see if all would still be fine if you were a disable. You have to feel it.