Photo Courtesy: http://www.terapeak.com/
Continuation from chapter two: http://lubnah.me.ke/spreading-the-wings-chapter-2/
“Being born in an Asian society with disability has a stigma of its own and discrimination. This was the situation before Dear Diary was born.
After having struggled to live up to everyone’s expectations, having adjusted to all kinds of situations environmentally and also the attitude of people taking me for granted, always keeping the disabled on the side, not including them in the community in any kind of decision making, is what gave birth to Dear Diary.
Down the line after 10 years I am glad that the way people look at me now is different from 10 years ago. Now I am considered part of the society. It wasn’t easy to build a name to keep up to, the pace to keep a smile and keep going, but I have proved my stand. Today I am respected. People want to be associated with me. People want to support me in all that I do purely for humanity and this is a great achievement.
However there is still discrimination where marriage is concerned. People especially in the Asian society have a mindset that a person with disability should not fall in love or have a partner whereas the same disabled person can be part of everything else in the society.
So it makes me wonder why a man or a woman with disability in the Asian society or culture is considered to be not in need of love or to be loved by that special someone…” Nafisa Khanbhai
We have probably seen so many disabled people in our lives; on the streets, in our work places, in our homes and in our communities. As much as they could be outstanding, hardworking, beautiful, strong…there would always be a ‘but’ in the middle of the sentence.
“She is capable and talented to do the job, but she doesn’t have legs…”
“He has outstanding qualifications, but he is deaf…”
“She is beautiful, she would have made a wonderful wife and mother, but…”
The ‘buts’ could go on and on forever and this is because we no longer look at them as normal human beings as what we are. But this is the funny part of life right? Someone ‘normal’ could be so depressed, with so much on their plate, their hearts could be tearing apart, they can barely focus and think straight, yet we still give them the chance to work, to get married, to have a family and a social life, because ‘everyone deserves a chance to prove what they are really capable of.’ Then why can’t we offer the same opportunities to those who are disabled yet still can do what any other normal person can do?
I can’t totally deny that there are some disabled people who can’t do some things because it is simply beyond their power, beyond their abilities and capabilities but there are those who have stood out from the crowd. They are always there but they end up seating on the pavements of the road, begging. Sometimes it is because this is the easiest way out of their troubles but sometimes, they really have no other way except this. And this is because you have stigmatized them; we have.
Have you ever seen the fuss we make when someone gets married or marries a blind girl, or an albino, or a man with no legs, or a lady who is both deaf and dumb? We make it seem like they are aliens, they belong to a world that is close to ours but not exactly the same as ours. Why then don’t we exaggerate the same way when someone marries a totally distorted soul? A soul that is crying out for help? Is it because they are beautiful on the outside or that they are good at covering their pain with a lovely smile?
I am not saying that people with depression issues don’t deserve to be married or be employed or be happy in their lives because anyway, we are all victims of the pain in our hearts. We just endure it differently. But my point is, if we can accept ourselves with all our unseen imperfections and flaws, why then not accept those whose flaws are visible and can be seen?
Mrs Fatema narrates of how once a visitor came home and found Nafisa in a bad state and she quickly told her that maybe someone did some witchcraft or something of the sort to Nafisa. But Nafisa’s mother is a believer that God tests anyone in any way, and this was their test.
The stigma is there everywhere. People believing that disabled people are cursed or victims of witchcraft or a punishment from God etcetera etcetera so however much they may be friends with them or colleagues, there is still some tension in the air, a gap that is always there to differentiate them; ‘the normal people’ to him/her, ‘the disabled’. There is that fine unseen, yet felt line between these two kinds of people and perhaps this line will exist forever.
Go to supermarkets, Government buildings, malls, Company offices, hospitals, schools, how many actually have ‘disabled-friendly’ environments? Are there any wheelchairs, ramps, sign language translators, brail documents? Ask any disabled person how many times they had to cancel their plans because they can’t climb the stairs? Or that there is no one to communicate to with sign language? How many times have you seen a disabled person board a matatu? Have you seen how hectic it is for them? Are the conductors and drivers patient enough to let them board the vehicle and sit comfortably before rushing off? How many schools are there for the disabled? What is the condition of these schools? Most of the times, they are pathetic and sometimes teachers are the same ones who take advantage of the students’ conditions.
Why do we wait until we have become victims ourselves, or until we fall in love with one of them, or when one of our close friends or family members becomes a disabled, is when we decide to think rationally and humanly about them? These people are most often than not, around us or near us all the time. We just don’t see them or even look at them. We don’t try putting ourselves in their shoes. We never think of how that could be you or me someday. We forget that God has never stopped creating us and that we too could become handicapped at any moment in our lives. And I mean, ANY MOMENT. It could even be right now as you read this…
I am not trying to curse you or anyone else. I am trying to remind you that God can twist your story whenever He wills. You just have to be humble to those less advantaged than you. Try helping out whenever you can to those disabled, even if it is just by granting them your true friendship, loyalty and companionship.
I am just trying to tell you that the next time you see a disabled person, treat them like how you would want someone else to treat you if you were wearing the same shoes…
To be continued…stay tuned 🙂