On being differently abled

“I am not disabled – I have a disability.” These words, emphatically stated by Hiten Bawa at last week’s 4th Annual Disability Conference – presented by Progression in association with TDCI – are still ringing in my ears. For me, this was one of the most poignant take-homes from this unbelievable two-day event. So many people living with disabilities don’t know what they are capable of simply because they have spent so much time concentrating on what they can’t do on order to find a way around the challenges they face. Don’t get me wrong: it is necessary to see what senses and abilities the person living with the disability has been deprived of but don’t dwell it as if you concentrate on the things you can’t do you’ll eventually start to believe that you can’t do anything else.

This, for me, was one of the important messages that came out of the conference. Progression highlighted a number of people living with disabilities – for example visual, hearing and cognitive – and showed how they work around these.

For example, Nazreen Bhana – executive member at eDeaf – told us how she has used the problems that she has encountered (as a deaf person) to help others who are hearing challenged. She started eDeaf, a company specialising in solutions to make life easier for people who can’t hear, e.g. developing a language app.

Another inspirational talk was given by Jermaine George, a university student and music producer who can’t see. He let us into his mind and what it is like to live in a world of constant darkness. Something that sighted – and even partially sighted people,  like myself – tend to forget – is not to assume that people without sight need our help. Just because they have lost their ability to see doesn’t mean that they have lost their ability to speak too. When they want help they’ll ask for it. It’s not up to you to decide when to give it  – and give it.

I think that there must have been not one delegate at that conference who wasn’t touched by proceedings during those days – the delegates living with  disabilities because they could see that others want to make reasonable accommodation measures for them so that they are able to take part in so-called able-bodied life and those without disabilities because they were able to freely interact around the subject of disability,  something which they possibly were too scared to do beforehand.

Thank you for allowing me to be part of this experience. It touched my heart and soul. I can’t wait to be part of an h events in the future!