Around 16% of the Global population has some kind of disability, i.e. 1.3 billion people. Out of this 75% are women. 60% of the women with disabilities, more likely to face domestic violence and sexual abuse and have almost 0 access to support, intervention and healthcare. Even if they reach to the support the mentality of the care givers is not really trained to accept the facts. Their outlook of the women with disability doesn't allow them to have a proper approach towards the victims. Moving to the education and career only 1% of the women with disability have access to education of their choice. 85% of the women with disabilities are less likely to be hired than the men with disabilities, and those who are hired earn 50% less than the men with the disabilities.
In this scenario we have to now discuss about how to empower women with disabilities. Sounds really impossible right? With these big numbers in billions and the talks about the world population?? True. It is difficult to talk about empowering the women with disabilities worldwide.

We see that there is no face for the disability. It just looks different from others. Secondly we see that there were no changes needed in the appearance of the person, what needed change was the environment and the approach of others. Thirdly and most importantly we see that there was absolutely no problem in the individual, or her desires, or her dream. So where was the problem? The problem was our thought process, the problem was that, we never considered her as a part of the society and hence we made no arrangements for her.

Let us now talk about the face of disability. As we saw there was no specific face for the disability. The revised PWD Act 2016 recognised 21 disabilities as the conditions that may affect the day today life of the people. Along with the visible disabilities this Act includes Low vision, Dwarfism, Mental Illness, Specific Learning Disabilities, Speech and Language disorders, Thalassemia, Haemophilia, Sickle Cell Disease, etc. These are some of the non- visible disabilities. When we come cross people with these kind of disabilities it is hard to be noticed so every time we see someone having trouble in doing some of the 'easiest jobs, do we really need a label on their head that they are disabled? Or can we just approach them and ask whether they need any help? Or can we just let it go? Like it is ok. But what we have been doing is, either make fun of the situation or draw out some conclusions. Which are not at all required.

As a women, we all know what struggle we all have been through to prove ourselves at every point of time, we know what kind of the situations our grannies and their mothers. have gone through to lead us here. But in some specific situations, when the nature has put on more challenges to some of our ladies, we are not ready to be there for them until they put a label on their forehead as 'DISABLED'. Why is it needed? How are we going to empower someone by continuously making her realised that there is something wrong or lacking in her?

Hence let us fix this strong in our mind there is no face for disability, accept the person the way she is, be there for her and if you can't, just let it go.

The struggle of the Women with Disability starts from herself. The moment she finds herself in front of the mirror, she tells herself "I'm glad I'm living". Is this what she is supposed to be satisfied with? Who sets these limitations? Who tells her to limit her dream? Who tells her she is supposed to cover up her disability? Who tells her she is supposed to hide all that, which makes her different from others? Why she is not supposed to look glamorous? That is because we want to see her depressed, we want to see her shabby. Our minds are set, women with disabilities should always be in a position of receiving help. Women with disabilities should be framed in one. If we see a woman who is an Acid Attack Victim with a bold make-up, don't we make comments like "as if this make up is going to make her look beautiful, why she put that?" When we see a lady with the scars over her body may be due to some accident and if she wears an outfit that doesn't hide those scars we are so upset saying "Why is that she wants to wear such dress in such situations? Why can't she just hide those scars? Who are we to decide for them? We always want them to be covered in those lose clothes, so that their body shape is not revealed. Why? Why do we think that the shape of our body is the standardised one and is the only shape to be portrayed as the perfect women? Women with disabilities need assistance to rise up together as their most authentic selves, rather than being what others want them to see. Empowerment is not just building ramps and lifts and the braille signs, it starts with the access to the society and a ramp to come out of the stigmas. It starts from acceptance. Acceptance of your own self as well as of the others.

Disability is not something a woman is trying to overcome, it is something the women is trying to live with. Disability is one part of the identity just the way other things are, like the skin complexion, hair type, or any other birthmark.

We need to stop addressing women with disabilities as "in-spite of such conditions you look so beautiful!" or "I'm glad you are here in spite of your conditions" or "wow! you are at the disco in spite of such conditions?? Hats off." we need to stop making them extraordinary by adding that "in spite of". Their whole struggle is about being a regular person, it is about being one amongst us and not above us. My father says this very often if 99 paisa is not 1 rupee 101 paisa will also not be. For 1 rupee to be valid it has to be 100 paisa." Likewise the women with disabilities are fighting and struggling for their right to live an ordinary life not a special one.

Gone are the days we talked about the basic facilities for the women with disabilities, for how long are we just trying to be satisfied with the basic? Though it is not met at most of the places, there are places where the basic facilities have reached long back but are still stuck there. It's time for them to move ahead. How? By dreaming big. By coming out of the idea that they are getting enough. We often hear things like they are getting the reservations in the government job, what else do they need? or Where they had nothing, government have done so much'. This 'so much' in not a favour, it's a part of their right. The Women with Disabilities have a right to each and everything a women without disability is entitled to. The fashion, the parties, the travels, and the dignified life. And to achieve this we have 3 different roles to play in the society. Family, Peer and Public. A family that strongly stands for rights of her child. A family that's ready to fight every obstacle on her child's path to lead her to her dreams. A family that believes 'she can'. A peer to always make her feel equal. A peer to always make her feel one amongst all. A peer to make her feel 'she matters". The public to encourage every effort. The public to also point at her failures, because that's what motivates. The public to generalise, her position in the society. The public to make her realise 'she is not the only one".

To conclude I would say, disability is a part of being human. Almost everyone will temporarily or permanently experience disability at some point in their life. It is perfectly fine to be diverse... disability is natural. Hence we need to remember three things as the member of this society. Check your thought (whether your ideas benefit the society). Check your word (Whether what you uttered encourages a soul), and Check your action (whether what you did helps someone).

Because disability is a family a person can join at any point of their life.....

Aditi Phaldesai

M.A. M.Ed..a special educator and Incharge Lokvis Prathihan, Canacona

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