Beautifying the word ‘disability’ doesn’t help but add woes to PwDs
Kohima, Dec. 3 (EMN): It’s been almost three decades since the world started observing December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) with an aim to promote the rights and well-being of PwDs, but their plight remains as many stereotypes and negative attitudes attached to disability still exist.
The occasion will be observed virtually in Nagaland this time due to the ongoing pandemic, as informed earlier by the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), Diethono Nakhro.
Nakhro, who received A Kevichusa Citizenship Award this year for her outspoken advocacy for the rights of PWDs, lamented that disability is seen as an abnormality, a tragedy; and a disabled life is often regarded as helpless and hopeless. She said that people living with disabilities are, more often than not, viewed as objects of pity and charity.
“There is even a fear of using the word disability or disabled because it is perceived as something bad, which is why various kinds of euphemisms keep cropping up trying to put a positive spin on disability, especially outside the disability community. Some of which are special needs, differently-abled, physically or mentally challenged, even people of determination- that’s what they call it in the UAE, and then ridiculous ones like diffabled, handi-capable, etc.,” she pointed out at an event recently.
Nakhro shared that disability is not a dirty word and making the word pretty does not make the situation better for people living with disabilities. What it actually does is diminish the experiences of disabled people and further increase stigma against them by implying that the word itself is inherently bad, she added.
Therefore, the word disability and disabled does not mean ‘unable’, she maintained, adding that nobody seems to care about the existence of PwDs.
“People with disabilities were literally invisible, their voices not being heard; disabled people were excluded and socially isolated. They exist but it was like they didn’t matter, their lives didn’t matter.
“There are instances where most children with disabilities are unable to go to school, unable to get a full or proper education because of inaccessible school buildings, lack of accessible curriculum, lack of trained teachers and so on. PwDs continue to face nearly insurmountable barriers in the most basic places like schools, hospitals, playgrounds, marketplaces, and even in churches. Therefore, there is still so much more that needs to be done for Nagaland to become truly inclusive and enabling,” she observed.
“What government must do is clear, but if there is one thing I’ve learned in my engagements with people fighting for change all over the world, it’s that anyone can become a difference maker,” Nakhro said.
“When we make sure that a wheelchair user can get into a building and fully participate; when we make an effort to create more awareness and understanding that someone with a disability is an equal; when we mobilise our colony people to make sure that the neighbourhood school is made accessible and that all disabled children of the colony are able to attend school and get an education, we are making a difference towards creating an accessible and inclusive world,” she added.
As per the UN, 80% of one billion persons with disabilities live in developing countries and an estimated 46% of older people aged 60 years and above have disabilities. It also observed that they are one of the most excluded groups in the society and among the hardest hit in Covid-19 pandemic crisis in terms of fatalities.
Even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to have access to healthcare, education, employment and to participate in the community, the UN stated, adding that an integrated approach is required to ensure that PwDs are not left behind.