Interacting With The Disabled People

Has it ever crossed your mind how your life would be if you were disabled? Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “I would rather be dead than disabled”? It is not a very surprising contemplation. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that most, if not all of us have pondered something similar. It is perhaps the reason why even unknowingly we all are guilty of being prejudiced against the disabled. In our society, disability is closely identified with dependency, with failure. We cannot help but feel sorry for the disabled for we imagine their lives to be miserable – we imagine them to be miserable. The disabled are met with a nauseatingly conciliatory approach that almost borders on patronization. They are treated with such fragility that chances of invoking any real, meaningful relationship with them is immediately snuffed out.

On the other hand, the disabled are also the most bullied and harassed section of the society. Handicapped, terrorized and isolated, it’s needless to say that people with disability make easy targets for demented people who seek pleasure by ridiculing them over their impairment itself. A survey conducted in the US by the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reports that roughly half of adolescents with speech impediments or other intellectual disabilities are subjected to harassment at schools. The likelihood of being bullied is highest for those with little to no friends.

Given our approach to the disabled, their chances of making friends are not expected to see an upturn any time soon. When we imagine a disabled person, we quickly picture someone with crutches or perhaps an amputee. Despite the giant strides taken in modern neuroscience, it’s perplexing how we still do not give proper attention to mental ailments as a serious disability. Back in medieval times, people suffering from mental illnesses were subjected to barbaric ‘treatments’ even the thoughts of which would now make one’s teeth clatter. Schizophrenic women were often declared as witches and burned on the stake. From chemically induced seizures to not being allowed to sleep for days on end, mental ailments were never taken seriously until the late 19th century. Science may have progressed since then, but our outlook has not. Even today, people with chronic mental disorders are either branded ‘mad’ or ‘psychotic’ or just given a slap on their wrist and callously told to ‘get over it’ – whatever that means. Modern medicine has time and again proven mental disorders to be serious medical conditions, yet the people suffering from such ailments are barely afforded the attention they require.

If you’re wondering just about now, about what should be the perfect demeanor while interacting with the disabled, let me assure you that it’s actually really easy – treat them just like you treat anyone else. We seem to forget that a person’s handicap does not deprive him of his dignity as a person. Hence, their disability must also not hamper our ability to behave in a natural, humane manner. We do not have to accommodate the disabled. They are not a burden to be carried by the society, they are just like you, just like me, do not reduce them to just a living personification of moral obligations. Disability may not simply be an irrelevant difference, like the color of our skin, but it does not have to be a tragedy either. Personally, I really find it irksome that some people, in a misguided intention of trying to make a disabled person feel better, (which you do not need to do), regularly bring up anecdotes of successful celebrities or entrepreneurs who are disabled. Why would you talk to your blind friend about Steve Harvey? Let us get something clear, they do not have to prove anything to us. Why can’t we just accept that maybe they are happy just as they are? We have to stop feeling sorry for the disabled. They do not need to compensate for their impairment. In fact, it’s us who can learn a thing or two.

I, personally, marvel at the strength of a friend of mine who happens to be blind. I used to feel sorry for him too, I used to deflect talking about movies and sports in order to avoid making him uncomfortable. Little did I know that my very trepidation about engaging in such topics was making him uncomfortable the whole time. Now I hold no such regulations and this has resulted in much more free flowing conversations, finally the friendship does not feel. . . forced. The greatest gift I’ve received from being in his company is a little fraction of his undying optimism. It’s okay to want more from life. It’s good to be ambitious and career oriented. But every once in a while, I take a moment to ask myself, “Do I have enough?” Resoundingly, the answer is always “yes”.

10 October 2020
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