Two years back on my birthday (2015), I took a decision to sensitize people about persons with disabilities. I have always observed that despite so much development, people still carry a stereotype mindset. They are mostly sympathetic towards a person with disability. They are not aware of the developments and transformations which have been taking place in the community. Being a visually challenged person, I know how it feels when because of peoples’ lack of awareness, you have to suffer. My city has given me a lot. My childhood and life so far has been amazing in the lap of my beautiful city. But now it is time to pay back. I want to make my city aware about abilities of people with disabilities. I want to tell people loudly and clearly that we are not disabled, rather we just perform tasks differently. Being a visually challenged person with 75% of impairment, I had to leave school when I was in class 8th and no school in our area gave me admission because of lack of awareness. I don’t want any other person to go through any such experience. Similarly, I don’t want the schools to remain unaware about our ways of doing things, our abilities and about technology. With this vision of making people more empathetic, so far I have covered seven main stream schools. My mission is to cover as many schools as I can. Earlier I used to think, how would I make a contribution in creating awareness in the absence of a team. But soon I realized that everybody can bring a change in society by putting his or her efforts.
The Path has not Been Really Rosy
When I began my sensitizing sessions, I prepared myself to deal with the negative response of schools and authorities. It was not at all easy. I faced the following potholes:
- First of all, one cannot just go to a school and ask them for carrying out a session. I met them prior to my session and convinced the principal and authorities. Certainly since it is a new concept for them, they took some time to gulp it. I told them how everything works and how we persons with disabilities are making a difference. Of course, they looked at me with a surprise and there was a sense of doubt in their voice but with clear and sharp points I could manage to convince them.
- It is not at all easy to say aloud amidst thousands of students and faculty members that you are visually challenged. Accepting it aloud amidst a huge crowd is not really a cake walk. First time when I carried out my session, it took so much strength and guts to talk about my disability in the assembly. Of course, students looked at me with an alien look and even the behaviour of the faculty members was quite strange but not in a negative way.
- Then no matter how skilled you are or how eloquently you can convey your views, when you are addressing a particular crowd, you have to adapt to their comfort level. Ultimately you have to make them understand it. You are not merely saying something; you are sowing seeds of change in minds. So, you have to control your words and expressions. Believe me, every single letter you utter matters when you are addressing a crowd.
- In one of my sessions, one of the faculty members even tried to cross check what I wanted to deliver. He told me to open the stuff and show him first in detail. He even asked me to show him a promo of unique type of Radio Station I talk about in my sessions. Of course, I was sensible enough to catch his mocking talk and gave him a befitting kind response through my actions. I am glad that I could suffice his curiosity and successfully delivered my presentation.
- I am dropped at the school gate and I make my way to the principal room on my own.
- I carry out my sessions in the morning assembly. The authorities make arrangement of mike and table. Generally, students are made to sit as my session shuttles between 20 to 25 minutes.
Main points of my Session are:
- What is disability and how it is misinterpreted.
- A quick peep into RTE Act 2009
- Detailed step-by-step information about screen readers/talking software. I give them a demo of how Screen readers work on our laptop and mobile.
- I make sure to convey my message to them that people with disabilities don’t need words of sympathy but what is needed is inclusion. We all must include people of all communities. And if we help a person with disability, we should not hesitate to ask for a help from him. One should not have prejudice that a disabled person cannot help others.
- A piece of information about Radio Udaan, an online radio station of its own kind. This station is run by visually challenged people belonging to different cities. Being an RJ and a part of this station, I tell them about our ways of working and broadcasts.
- (Recent Addition) What is a scribe/writer and how students can help PWDs by becoming their writer. (It is a big problem these days to find a writer for exams/tests) I always found writers for my exams at the last moment only
So far, my sessions are going great. I am glad that people have interest in knowing more about persons with disabilities. But the only thing I have to improve is to make sure that students come up openly. It is a general tendency that people and especially students waver to talk about disabilities. May be for a second, lack of response from students sometimes lowers my morale but I should not forget that such things take time, patience and dedication. I have to make sure that my determination to create awareness does not get effected by lack of queries. From time to time, I must remind myself, “Look Divya everything begins with a short bit. And every such bit makes a huge impact. You have to keep yourself firm and this is something which cannot be gained in a blink of eye. Keep trying and somewhere these short efforts will bring a big change in the lives of people. Stay truthful to yourself and your purpose. ”
No matter how occupied I was in my studies or am now in my job, I do steal some hours for these session because I know it will make an impact. Whenever I carry out these sensitizing sessions, I just carry my laptop and mobile phone. This way, I am not dependent on anybody or any financial assistance. I just share with people and acquaint them with the new perspectives and practices.
I would like to conclude that it has always been challenging to change the view point of people at grass root but still I am glad that I am getting a positive response from the people, more than my expectations. Every single bit of awareness in the society is taking me closer to my purpose.