International Disability Day: Disability does not equal inability, say experts

Published: November 26, 2011
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People with special needs share their experiences at a seminar organised by Markaz-e-Umeed.

People with special needs share their experiences at a seminar organised by Markaz-e-Umeed.

KARACHI: Children with special needs should not be excluded from the society, rather they should be given opportunities to prove themselves to the world.

Markaz-e-Umeed (MU), a school for children with special needs, decided to do just that – give these children a chance to mark World Disability Day.

The walls of the school were adorned with paintings and drawings made by the children. While each picture had a different image they all shared a common message – disability does not mean inability.

To prove that disabled people can achieve whatever they set their minds to, Farah Naz shared her story. “Many thought it was not possible but I knew I wanted more,” said the young woman who is clinically deaf and mute. Her words were slightly garbled but simply required attention and patience to be understood. “I decided to sit for my BA in 2001,” she said. Farah secured the first position in all of South Asia. She is now married with two healthy children, both without any disability. She also teaches computers at a government school in North Karachi.

“It requires patience and tolerance, that’s all,” said her sister-in-law, Shehla Irfan, when asked if she had any difficulty communicating with Farah. “Some people are kind and understanding and they show patience but there are many who just get frustrated and become aggressive.”

Out of all the challenges Farah faces, the biggest is communicating with her children. “Sometimes she can’t understand what her little girl wants and I have to explain,” Shehla said. “Despite the odds she never gave up and kept trying.”

Social activist Nooruddin Bhamani addressed the seminar from a stretcher. “We aren’t crazy or invisible but people treat us like that.” Derogatory terms like ‘langra’ and ‘loola’ are common when speaking to and of the physically challenged, he said. “We should be encouraging people, especially children, to find their inner talent and be a thriving part of the society,” said Shakeel who is also a supporter of MU. “They are not a burden and should not be treated as such.”

The students also performed a dance on an Indian song “Dil hai chota sa” which was met with loud cheers and applause.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2011.

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