“We need empathy, not sympathy”

People with special needs require society’s empathy and not sympathy, said head of Advocacy and Disability Studies, Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (IICP), here on Saturday during a workshop on children with special needs at a city school.

Talk to us directly

“The first tip is to change people’s attitude. Terms like ‘wheelchair bound’ and ‘mentally retarded’ are negative. ‘Wheel chair user’ is more appropriate. When communicating with us, talk to us and not our companions. It is insulting when you talk to us through our escorts,” Ms. Ghosh said.

The training, conducted by faculty members of the IICP, saw 25 teachers of the Lakshmipat Singhania Academy (LSA) becoming attentive students as the trainers, who are diagnosed with cerebral palsy, conducted a workshop and then divided them into teams to participate in an interactive session.

Calling for an inclusive society and equal opportunities for persons with special needs, Ms. Ghosh said there were several hindrances such people have to face in society. Despite the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, making it mandatory for all public places to have ramps for easy accessibility, many buildings are yet to have these facilities. Transport is mostly inaccessible. Besides, there is a shortage of sign language interpreters.

Children learn better in the presence of children with special needs than a teacher sensitising them, said LSA faculty member Kanak Shankar Mukherjee.

“Our school has the concept of a peer buddy concept where other students are assigned to assist children with special needs. In this way, the emotional quotient of the students increase and they are sensitive and learn to care for children with special needs,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

Strong will power

Participating in the workshop as trainers; Dipak Ghosh, Shradha Khator and Madhuri Kapur are examples that faith can move mountains. Choosing to overlook their condition, all three have made names for themselves. While Mr. Ghosh was feted with the Most Creative Adult Award by the West Bengal government in 2011, Ms. Khator is working as a research assistant at the IICP and has penned several short stories and poems. Besides winning awards for her paintings, Ms. Kapur is a faculty member at the National Institute of Open Schooling, Kolkata.

The IICP has been conducting awareness programmes in schools on cerebral palsy since 2011. More workshops are planned at other schools in the city.

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 12:56:32 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/we-need-empathy-not-sympathy/article6390233.ece

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