Differently-abled individuals in India are at the risk of facing unemployment, social exclusion, and other forms of discrimination. The way we treat people with disabilities deeply impacts their self-esteem, and overall well being. Over 2.7 crore people in India struggle with some form of disability.
Source: We Capable
Differently-abled individuals have varying degrees of independence. It’s wrong to assume that all disabled people are perpetually in need of help. Most prefer to accomplish tasks on their own, rather than constantly depending on others. Even when someone looks like they are struggling, it’s better to ask if they need assistance before jumping in. If helping someone with a disability, always ask for specific instructions. It is much kinder to follow their lead, instead of acting out of sympathy.
Using derogatory adjectives like ‘slow,’ or ‘dumb,’ is the worst form of prejudice to have towards the differently-abled. Never treat someone with a disability as lower than you. The prejudiced are ignorant of how difficult everyday-tasks are for people with disabilities. Abled people take actions like walking, showering, and talking for granted.
Even though most of us are not guilty of using such words, prejudice can sneak into our lives in subtler ways. Hence, it is important to be mindful of our interactions with differently-abled individuals. Instead of being discriminatory, be grateful for the things you have that others, sadly, may not.
Treat your listener as your equal. Speak clearly with simple words and concrete sentences. Match the pace of your speech, and the complexity of your vocabulary with your listener’s. Talk slow when communicating with people who are deaf. Do not finish sentences for people with speech impairments. Allow them to finish at their own pace. Being abruptly cut off is especially bothersome for disabled people, so avoid interrupting the person talking to you.
Often, people with hearing or speech impairments employ translators to communicate with others. People default to looking at the translator instead of the person communicating through them. Try to make eye-contact with the person as their translator talks for them. This small habit helps disabled individuals feel significantly more included.
Many people only possess minimal knowledge of the spectrum of disabilities in India. World Handicapped Day aims to spread awareness about disabilities, their effects, and how to help people living with them. To grow your awareness, sign up for disability newsletters. Read memoirs of people that have struggled with being handicapped. Don’t be afraid to go up to people with disabilities and strike up a conversation. Hold public places accountable if they do not offer ramps, rails, special toilets, and other amenities that support those with special needs.
Make the most of the World Handicapped Day by volunteering at hospitals or NGOs. Volunteering is one of the best ways to learn how to support people with special needs. NGOs exist to aid people with learning disabilities, hearing/vision or speech impairments, developmental disorders, and physical disabilities from accidents. Look for nonprofits in your area. Supporting differently-abled people in their daily-life builds your ability to empathize with them. Inevitably, you learn to make them feel at home around you.
Differently-abled individuals may need extra money to pay bills, like covering medical costs. Most cannot work for themselves as employers may not want to hire them. In 1991, the employment rate for special needs people in India was 42.7%. In 2002, it went down to 37.6%. Fundraising is a good way to collect donations for people with disabilities. Use websites like GoFundMe, or throw events whose proceeds go to the NGO (or NGOs) of your choice. Most nonprofits accept donations.
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