Disability movement in India

Disability movement in India

Disability Movement in India

I had the opportunity to meet Mr. TMN Deepak who is a leading disability rights activist here in Chennai. It was so kind of him to pay me a visit amidst his extremely busy life. In my sheltered life with aspirations of activism, it was very grounding to hear from someone that has dedicated a lot of his life to create space for this issue to be discussed in the mainstream. It was a healthy dose of reality to hear about the struggles to create even small incremental changes.

The life of a person with a disability is extremely challenging in India. It appears that the basic physical accessibility concerns in public places are still not widely resolved. We might be a long way away from universal access to alternate communication tools for non speakers like me. There seem to be very few voices in this area.

We had a good conversation on how it is difficult to move the disability movement from a charity mode to a full fledged rights based movement given some of the historical context around how disability is looked at. It was also eye opening to hear how different disability groups compete for the limited resources that are available without much coordination. Finally it was instructive to hear how some of the small wins are celebrated as a victory for the individual thereby losing the focus and an opportunity to create awareness on the challenges they had to overcome. This lack of awareness and education is the biggest impediment to moving this to a right based movement.

While the road ahead for a young disability activist can be daunting, I drew a lot of strength and solidarity from this conversation and what Mr. Deepak had to overcome. I am now more inspired to meet more such activists and learn more.

Swarit Gopalan

About the Author

I am an 11-yr old autistic, nonspeaker that uses letterboard to spell/keyboard to type to communicate.I live with my family in Florida and go to Invictus Academy for school. 
I find a lot of solace in expressing myself through poetry. Music and nature also help me stay in the present, there is nothing better for me than to have my movement create a symphony with nature and to truly enjoy the sights and sounds. Living in harmony with nature is my life’s mission.
Right from the time of diagnosis, we are only told about all things we cannot or will not be able to do. Along with the check that is written to the doctor for the diagnosis, it often feels like our agency is written off too, especially without a reliable communication mechanism.  
Time to change the paradigm with more non speaker voices. It has always been a dream to share my thoughts and perspectives with the world so that I can be one of the catalysts to creating a better understanding of non speakers in general. 
My hope is that my words will help change the world from sympathy and pity for those like me to one of deeper understanding of our lives and allyship to ensure our rights.

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