What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word disability? For most it's the word charity. The first emotion aroused when we think about a 'blind', 'deaf' or 'handicapped' person is of pity and once this pity-centre in our brain is activated, our tear-glands and our charity-glands usually follow.
Yet, ask any self-respecting, educated person with disability (PWD), and s/he will scorn at your pity while also respecting your right to your own sentiments (often a PWDs struggle is inspiring). They will castigate you for using insensitive words (hence marked in single-quotes above) like 'blind', 'deaf', 'mute', 'deaf and dumb', 'handicapped, 'retarded' etc. Today they appeal to a more cerebral part of your consciousness, your conscience-glands...your justice-glands. Today, they prefer to be identified as persons first and be called a person with disability instead.
Disability, the world over, is no longer question of charity; it is a matter of rights and justice. It isn't about how a PWD can 'fit in' but about how society can remove hindrances in their path (e.g. anyone can use a ramp, but only those with strong, functional legs can uses stairs and often making ramps instead of stairs isn't that expensive). Today disability activists will no longer just seek a cheque for their organizations, they will ask that you interview, and if they are proven worthy, to hire PWDs.
Disability today is thus about the fundamental rights of the person with impairment and not the society's 'fundamental' urge to charity.
'Disability' today is about crossing out the prefix 'dis' from the word and finding the 'ability' in people with impairment.
Image: A rally for disabled people by Adapt
Text: Satyen K. Bordoloi
Images: AP/ Sify