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The able are at work

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Guidance on the way forward when you’re constrained

Rheumatoid arthritis, causing the degeneration of the joints, has slowly decreased my ability to move normally; hence I limp and my fingers especially have bent out of shape. I also struggle to sit or rise from a chair that is low. Often I find strangers staring at me when I manoeuvre myself awkwardly or sidle into a vehicle. Some children exhibit a fear to shake my deformed hands, while others boldly enquire what happened to them.

For years now, coping with my disability and encountering it in fellow arthritis sufferers and others at disability organisations where I interact, is a way of life. It was only when a friend who worked in HR at a multinational corporation asked me to come and share with their employees during their ‘diversity and inclusion’ week, how able persons could be comfortable with persons with disability, did I realise what a chasm and shyness existed in the minds of educated people too in their approach to the disabled. At times, it is insensitivity or social stigma that drives this too, and mindsets and attitudes must be changed. Recently a relevant post on my Facebook page threw up plenty of ‘likes’…

For starters, I hardly consider myself disabled and can’t bear it when someone greets me with the “how sad” stuff. There’s plenty I can do independently with some modifications made around the home to enable such. For what I can’t manage alone I request assistance in getting the job on hand done, which willing friends welcome. Ask and you shall receive, as people cannot perceive exactly what you need.

Hounded by advice?

I prefer to provide the guidance rather than be hounded by advice on ‘how to’ and so on. Overenthusiastic helpers and uncalled-for advice as to how to move, perform and so on can at times be troubling and confusing to a person with disability (PWD). Rebuffs can be hurtful or annoying to those proffering assistance, so offer and await a response before grabbing someone by surprise. It has happened to me often enough to throw me off balance! Most are slow-movers so rather await precise instructions if at all required. Same goes with the elderly. Plenty of PWDs, however, are extremely self-dependent. Secondly, don’t feel awkward when you encounter a person with disability. Yes, some persons are visually unattractive, disfigured, difficult to comprehend in their speech, maybe hard of hearing and this takes adjustment and immense patience in dealing with them. Most are not lacking in intelligence and comprehension of what is going on around I can assure you, so please make the effort to be at ease with such persons as you would be among yourselves, offering a helping hand instinctively but not overbearingly, and modify wherever possible infrastructure, aids and appliances to suit their requirements.

Do encourage persons with disability to be independent and empower them to mainstream from infancy, through childhood education and social interaction so this mutual apprehension and divide disappears from society!

jacolaco7@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 3:12:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-able-are-at-work/article21381850.ece

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