By Pihu Saraff, Grade 8
Roughly 2.21% of the population of India live with some kind of disability. As a society, we often overlook their accomplishments. There is a lot of misinformation regarding people with disabilities, and many view them as lesser human beings, infantilizing and mistreating them. However, countless such people are making their mark on society through incredible feats, proving that people with disabilities shine when given the opportunity.
A notable example of an empowered individual with a disability is Dr Arunima Sinha who became the world's first female amputee to climb Mt Everest, the highest mountain on Earth. She also went on to climb Mount Vinson, which is the highest peak of Antarctica. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2015. Today, she is dedicated to social welfare and wants to open a sports academy for the poor and people with disabilities. She serves as an inspiration to many, motivating them to follow their dreams despite any physical ailments.
Another example is Sudha Chandran, a Bharatanatyam dancer and an actress. At a young age, the highly accomplished dancer met with a life-changing accident that caused her to lose part of her right leg. However, this unfortunate incident didn't stop her from following her dreams by wearing an artificial leg. She re-mastered all of her dance moves and was finally back on stage–thriving. She became the recipient of two prestigious awards and performed a ground-breaking performance in January of 1984. Because of this performance, the entire nation knew her name. She later ventured into acting and other projects. Sudha Chandran not only carved a niche for herself but also set an example for countless people around India, not allowing her disability to stop her in any way.
We as a society must uplift and include people with disabilities who are just as capable as those who are able-bodied. Uplifting starts with basic respect. Using PFL (Person First Language) by calling them “people with disabilities” rather than “disabled people” ensures that they aren’t reduced to their disability, and are seen for more than that. Another essential thing to remember is not to infantilize people with disabilities as it can often lead to low self-esteem. Doing simple things like not stooping down when speaking to someone in a wheelchair, respecting their individual desire for independence, communicating normally, and talking to them directly and not their companion (if any) can make a world of a difference in making them feel included and comfortable.