I have started an initiative which I’ve named ‘Baatcheet’ (which means conversation in Hindi). The idea is to arrange informal talks filled with information and inspiration which will be a call to thought and action.
This past weekend I had my second event which was a talk by Malvika Iyer, a young lady who at the age of 13, lost her hands and also severely injured her legs, in an explosives accident. I was sure that the talk would be inspirational and that the young speaker would prove to be someone that the children could identify with. It turned out to be so much more than that.
Malvika speaks effortlessly, from her heart, about how she copes with her disability and about society’s perception towards people with disabilities. She spoke lovingly about her mother and her steadfast support, about how her mother teaches her to take things lightly and with humour and how she challenges her to be independent. She spoke about accessibility issues that a person with disabilities face, how our cities can be made friendlier and how our archaic bureaucracy had to be sensitised.
The girls in the audience asked interesting questions from whether she got to choose the look of her prosthetic hands to how she copes in a society where everyone strives to look ‘perfect’.
I felt that we have to think more of our role in making society more inclusive; to think about how we easily label people with disabilities to hide our own inadequacies in handling it; how persons with disabilities have the same hopes, aspirations, dreams, dignity and pride as us and how everything that’s available to each of us should be available to all.
We have to level the playing field; we have to make a difference by standing up and speaking up for them, ensure that our schools not only include children with disabilities but also provide facilities that enable them to receive the best education, that our offices not only hire them but provide easy accessibility and opportunities for excelling; that our public buildings are designed in such a way that a person with a disability can utilise the same services with the same dignity and independence that we enjoy; that we design keeping in mind freedom of movement, safety and comfort and that we are sensitive to the fact these are not exceptions but rather norms for a humane society.