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When Ability goes beyond Disability

Disability is more in the minds of the people around those with disabilities. This perception can only be changed when Disability is understood as diversity and not as an inability – Dr Deepa Mallik

PWD are the largest and most dynamic minority in the world, forming as much as 15% of the world’s total population. Disabilities are not always visible like locomotor or visual Disability, it can be invisible, permanent, and even temporary. Despite comprising such a larger population, people with disabilities are the most overlooked and discriminated section of society. For years, we have unconsciously and consciously discriminated against PWD due to a lack of sensitization, education about handling diverse PWD issues and deficiency of inclusive infrastructure.

Sources of discrimination against people with disabilities

  1. Stereotypes – We as employers, colleagues, managers and subordinates have many assumptions regarding what a person with disabilities can do and what they can’t. We often choose to disregard researches and even the performance of PwD and brand them as inefficient and unproductive. A person in a wheelchair is assumed not to be able to perform a job that requires travelling.
  2. Unequal Opportunities – one of the main reason that a PWD is not able to shine and achieve big is unequal opportunities. Inaccessible infrastructure, Lack of assistive technology, higher cost of accommodating a PWD further add to them not being able to come forward. Due to the lack of successful examples, we often misjudge them as unproductive.
  3. Social exclusion – Lack of awareness and education about disability issues and problem makes people behave abnormally with PWD. People often admit that their approach while initiating social interaction with PWD is different from their approach with an average person.
  4. Cost of accommodating – Organizations are reluctant in hiring a PWD because the cost of creating an accessible environment with assistive technologies increases their cost of hiring. As a result, many organizations often disregard the achievements of PWD, which in many cases are better than an average applicant.

How a lady with an iron will break all stereotypes – The Story of Dr Deepa Mallik

Fighting chest-below paralysis called paraplegia occurring from a spinal tumour for almost 20 years, Dr Deepa Malik is on a mission promoting Ability Beyond Disability. She defied gender and disability by becoming the first Indian Women to win a medal (silver in women shot put) at the Paralympics at Rio 2016 Paralympic games. She has been honoured by the President of India with Padma Shri at the age of 47 for her invaluable contribution to disability empowerment as an activist and the president of the Paralympic committee. The daughter of Dr Deepa Malik, Devika Mallik, was born a premature baby with acute neonatal jaundice and hemiplegia, was paralyzed on one side of the body.

The mother-daughter duo has co-founded the Wheeling Happiness Foundation, which supports and enables PWD athletes by providing access to sports equipment and helping them overcome other challenges, including emotional, social, and financial problems. Their mission is “to create an inclusive & barrier-free society and empower people with disabilities, women and economically under-served communities.”

Great Place to Work® Diversity and Inclusion summit

Dr Deepa pointed out the need for the disability sector to become citizens and not just remain consumers by starting to support PWD instead of differentiating and sympathizing with them. As an individual, a team, and an organization, it is our moral duty to make the country progress and leave no one behind. The more we start thinking about inclusion, the better
the policies and infrastructure will be, and there will be a lesser chance of people being discriminated against, intentionally or unintentionally.

The vision of inclusivity

Making the atmosphere conducive to respect the different needs of diverse individuals helps create multiple opportunities to tap the potential of people with special abilities who can earn for themselves and give back to society. Social inclusivity is a real commitment. Be it business, culture,
or community, everyone is more enriched by universal inclusion. Disabilities are more ‘able’ than ‘disable’, and it is often the environment that restricts a person’s progression in society. The pandemic has brought in significant realizations and massive changes in the ways of working. This
can be a perfect opportunity for workplaces to tap on the potential of diverse and differently-abled people by providing them with the proper training to deliver as per their highest efficiency.

“People will look at you, the way you look at yourself. It is vital to keep learning and evolving

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Keen to be part of the Conversation – Register for the Great Place Diversity & Inclusion Summit 2021 here.

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