Empower the disabled

Bhutan’s disabled might just have it tougher

Apart from the actual disabilities they suffer, they are vulnerable to social stigma because many tend to believe that the fate they are suffering is a result of their karmic deeds in present or past life.

It is sad that they have to struggle with the most ordinary tasks; it is sadder still that they are often blamed for their suffering.

There is an urgent need to integrate the disabled into the mainstream. This might be difficult but not impossible. First is the need to create awareness among the people. The disabled, far from being victims who thrive only on crumbs from the table of those better off, should be seen as a breed of fighters.

In developed countries, we see the physically challenged who do their own tasks and sometimes even excel at given fields. We should strive to see the same in the country. Empowering through empathy is always better than demoralizing through victim mentality.

Here comes the need to create more avenues such as educational, training, recreational and vocational institutes for the disabled. Of course, these should be manned by capable, responsible staff and authorities.

Currently, we are facing a serious lack of disabled-friendly infrastructure and facilities. We also do not have enough teachers and instructors who can help them live independently and productively. This issue needs to be addressed.

Families with a disabled member should support him in becoming the strong person he is meant to be. This would include treating the person as an equal in all aspects and though he might need help often, the belief that he has the power to choose his reaction or attitude toward his situation should form part of his consciousness from an early age.

At the same time, our efforts to empower the disabled should be tempered with compassion. We must prod them to be fighters but simultaneously, we must understand that when they feel low, fall down or do not meet expectations, we must be patient and kind. We must understand that they are human beings and have limitations like everyone else.

We must also teach our children to respect the disabled. They are individuals who bear the burden of living through life with crutches, so the world must treat them kindly or at least validate them as much as we would a healthy and hale person.

As local media reported, the disabled need empathy more than sympathy.

In Bhutan, we hear examples of disabled people who are inspirational figures. Those who motivate and counsel youth while others continue to do house chores and look after children despite being on wheelchairs. They are the heroes.

In a world where self-pity and victim mentality is played out to the fullest to gain pity or sympathy, it is motivational to see and hear of people who stand up for themselves and others despite seeming handicaps.

It would be downright condescension on our part to treat the disabled like an appendage to so called “normal” society. It is good if we help them. It is best if we help them to help themselves.

The key word here is “empower” and to do that we must recognize that the disabled have intrinsic worth as human beings.

Often, the people who seem the weakest possess extraordinary strength of will and character in the face of life-threatening situations and inner battles.

This begins with acceptance from self and society. Therefore, we as fellow human beings are morally bound to facilitate this acceptance.