Today, the 3rd of December, is World Disability Day or the ‘International Day of Persons with Disability’. According to the United Nations, over one billion people, or approximately 15 percent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability!
The UN says “Around the world, persons with disabilities face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers that exclude them from participating fully and effectively as equal members of society. They are disproportionately represented among the world’s poorest, and lack equal access to basic resources, such as education, employment, healthcare and social and legal support systems, as well as have a higher rate of mortality. In spite of this situation, disability has remained largely invisible in the mainstream development agenda and its processes.”
Couldn’t agree more! And I say this because I spend time with a voluntary organisation called Muskaan, which has grown (since 1982) into one of New Delhi’s premier institutes providing comprehensive education, vocational training and work opportunities to young people who are intellectually challenged. We offer support services to parents as well as raise awareness about the various issues surrounding people with intellectual disabilities. We also advocate for their rights.
Many of us have a different kind of disability when it comes to the disabled. Thanks to media and cinema portrayals of the disabled in a sad, grim light, when we face disabled people, our response is to feel sympathy. However, after my close association with Muskaan, my perception has turned upside down. Let me tell you about Antara.
My first encounter with Antara was during the theatre workshops in Muskaan, where she instantly started chatting with me, giggling all the while. Her ability to lead and step up for all the activities really fascinated me.
And she’s not the only one. I have come across many such pretty little wonders during my association with Muskaan, and their zeal to live life whole-heartedly offers so much to learn from. They jump around like jack-in-the-boxes and seem to be at peace with their imperfections. They teach you various things like celebrating the simple joys of life and being selfless. Yes, they do lack in certain ways, but then who doesn’t?
Today, I urge you to develop the ability to look beyond the imperfections of people. And grab the opportunity to connect with the enormous positivity inside each of them – the power to smile in the face of adversity. It’s one disability most of us 85% have.