By Jakir Hossan
Amzad Hossain, a third year student of University of Dhaka, is visually impaired but can speak well before a thousand people and engage in various co-curricular activities on campus. Managing with recording clips of class lectures and a scribe to write exams, seeking assistance to get to places, he is struggling to lead a normal life despite such obstacles and yet, he is doing well.
Emdad Hossain Mollick is a differently-abled painter with a soaring imagination. He has legs but no arms and can’t move independently. He has painted numerous sketches representing the natural beauty and rural life of Bengal and its people, surprisingly, using his mouth. He has achieved this through great hardship.
Our society, existing social values and the thinking of people does not easily let these talented resources bloom.
Amzad and Mollick are representative of persons with disabilities (PWD) in our society. They are also differently-abled. The way they accomplish a job may be different from the way others do things. Existing social culture, social values and the way people think about these people are not supportive to their growth and expansion of personal skills and qualities. In most circumstances, these people lead a life with no hope, no dignity, no respect and no care.
We cannot deny our responsibilities towards them. We have a moral duty towards them, a social responsibility to ensure their care, our religious value inspires us to work for them and, lastly, as human beings we have ethical obligations towards persons with disabilities.
People with disabilities can be Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist but he/she is a human being from the same source. Our social bonding teaches us that we have our societal obligation to stand besides these persons whenever they need us. It’s like a family where, if someone is in difficulty, others come forward with a supportive hand.
From a religious perspective, there are references in religious texts ordering us to be supportive of persons with physical limitations.
Whenever we see someone passing on the road with a stick in his/her hand, wearing dark glasses, we just see the spectacle. That is where ethics or morality kicks in, to get down from the vehicle and address ourselves to help this person to cross the road and point them in the right direction.
Women with disabilities face far worse problems than the men, given the general treatment meted out to women by society. Where women without disabilities face social and family obligations which confine them within the home, it is unthinkable what hardships women with disabilities experience. These women are considered a burden and no one cares for them.
But in the 21st century, it is wrong to term these persons as a social burden. There are many examples of how differently-abled persons are representing our country.
The Bangladesh wheelchair cricket Team recently defeated India in a bilateral three-match T20 series. The captain of this cricket team, Mohammad Mohsin, and all other players have physical limitations but are able to play cricket and enjoy a taste of life from a wheelchair. So how could they be a burden?
Arifun Nahar Misti is Executive Director of the Women with Disabilities Development Foundation (WDDF). She is confined to a wheelchair but has visited many countries and is doing a great job of raising awareness to remove negativities people hold in their mind about persons with disabilities.
Times have changed and so should our perceptions. No one is a burden even if they have he/she is a person with disabilities. Only with care, love and a supportive hand can we bring talented faces like Mohsin and Misti, who are differently-abled, to realize their potential.
If we are sincere in our duties from where we are, that would be enough. As human beings, we can be supportive whenever we see someone with disabilities facing difficulties with their situation. Whenever we change our perception with positivity, we can be a part of an inclusive society movement. It will be a society where every disabled person will have proper care, rights, dignity and support for personal and professional growth and excellence.
(The author is with the Physically-challenged Development Foundation of Bangladesh. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)