A subject like disability, which is usually tiptoed around, was dealt with in intricate detail in the conversation between K. Srilatha, author, of This kind of Child: The ‘Disability’ Story, and Ramya Kannan.
Answering Ramya’s question on what formed her book’s framework, Srilatha said, “Writing about a subject like disability and the idea of not keeping out voices, and knowing that there are differences in perspectives powers the book in some ways and had to be reflected in the structure. It began as a collection of short stories. Gradually, however, it grew organically into a bigger book and included more people and perspectives.”
Shedding light on the charity Vs rights approach, she elaborated on how, “It is impossible to not completely leave out charity, as the rights-based approach will not appeal to many. Disability activists are [a] significantly minority group who keep a watch on laws, [and] what is happening to disabled people and fight for their causes. This is important. As we don’t have adequate infrastructure, what we rely on is kindness and not charity. Hence, both are important.”
So, how does she define disability? Srilatha explained, “We struggle to accept disability because there is always a fear or discomfort about anyone different from us, and we quickly label them in a box. In the course of writing this book, I met different people who defined disability differently, and one person told me that disability is largely attitudinal. When a mobility-challenged person encounters a staircase, they are disabled because of a barrier — attitudinal or infrastructure, or lack of empathy, and lack of thinking through public image, and not because someone doesn’t have a limb or eyesight.”
She further said, “There are special schools that cater to disabled children. But, when we have such segregation and send disabled kids to special schools, it becomes an easy solution for society to tuck them away. If in a mainstream school, there are even one or two kids with disabilities, it normalises this for the others. Special schools are definitely needed, but it is best to have a special education movement in mainstream schools.
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