India cannot run away from accepting its persons with disability. Out of every one lakh population in the country, 1,755 persons have one or the other disability. About 8.40% of rural households and 6.10% of urban households were reported to have at least one disabled person.
I can’t deny that disability brings with it many challenges and yes, parents are troubled and even traumatized. However, you can “cope” with your own or your child’s disability only if you first accept it.
In India, often, for a long time, parents are in denial and often traumatized. They keep running from one doctor to the other and then to mazars and mandirs, etc. and I can’t blame them. All this negative affect is a result of the lack of any alternative system of care, education and employment for them.
Studies have shown various psychological effects that parents undergo when they are exposed to the disability of their child. It is similar to the stages of dying but here parents go through shock, denial – ‘No, it cannot happen to my child’, guilt – ‘I must have done something wrong. It’s my fault.’ sorrow – ’why did it happen to my child?’ rejection – ‘I did not ask for a child with a problem’ and acceptance – ‘It’s ok. It’s my child. I will take care of her/him.’ Most parents reach the acceptance stage, and that period continues a lifetime with the parents showering unlimited love and care to their child. But most often, with the Indian parents, self-pity is the case. They find alternative methods to vent their pity, that is, through ritualization, be it pujas, fasts or a random activity to be performed under the instruction of a saint.
So what’s the solution? We need to mainstream disability into all facets of life while removing all negative stereotypes. It is necessary to create infrastructure that is disabled friendly and get lakhs of children with disabilities into regular schools.
Remember that whatever children grow up with, becomes their natural environment. For example, when a child studies with another child who has a disability, they intuitively become sensitised from a very early age. And, if this is not instilled from an early age then individuals find it difficult to adjust and accommodate at a later stage. This is similar to the theory of learning a language by immersion, and hence the child can learn acceptance by immersion.
Our schools, colleges and universities should be such where a student with disability is able to study with dignity and comfort. And, even in the case of some children where any extra attention is required, it should be within what is labelled as a “normal” setting! So that even if they are not in the same classroom together, at least for all other activities from say music to dance, drama, sports, painting and so on, all children are together and are able to interact and learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
We need to bring about changes in the stigmatized attitudes and responses to disabled persons to make them contribute to different walks of community life.
According to Article 21 of the Indian Constitution each individual has the right to dignity. Article 21 also gives the right to any party who belongs to a weaker section of the community to fight for themselves, if they have been deprived in any way. Which is why the motto of the worldwide disability movement is ‘Nothing about Us, Without Us.’
It is high-time that India invests in not only counselling but also infrastructure. If and when a parent realizes that tough luck my child is disabled but even then, she/he can do as well as another child, as in gain good education, get a decent job, and be able to move around with dignity and comfort, things would be easier for them emotionally and in reality too.