I am a person who has written for most of her adult life, in a number of genres. My writings have been an assortment of various degrees of ‘excitement’, ‘incitement’, ‘education’, and/or ‘pain’. Many times, it has been a conscious variant of a highly motivated unconscious activity, just like dreaming.
I started writing when I was 18, but that was in a completely different genre. Initially, I started writing poetry, and that too, the sad ones you write when you are lonely – without friends and without age-appropriate activities. But now when I look back, I see it was a kind of defence mechanism or a way of distancing myself from unpleasant thoughts and feelings.
Gradually, my approach towards everything changed with age, education and maturity and so did my writings. I began to question the meaning and purpose of my life. The ability to write became the reiteration and confirmation of ideals that upheld the objectives of what all I wanted to achieve.
Sometimes, putting things into words is the initial step before converting those words into action. I found writing to be a way of strengthening and polishing my vision for the change that I desired to see. Writing on disability issues gave me an opportunity to articulate – not just what is, but what could be. I started sharing my personal stories about how I could get accessible and inclusive schools or how I was unable to attend regular colleges. My personal stories encouraged other people in similar situations to get involved.
Despite the passage of various acts and pieces of legislation, disparities in healthcare, education, and employment are still witnessed and persons with disabilities are unable to fully participate in every aspect of society. So I started penning my thoughts and experiences to spread awareness about such issues and to pinpoint the lacunae in the system. I realised that the perspectives of persons with disabilities, especially those in the younger age group, were missing from the literature available. And challenging public policies requires listening to the stories and experiences of people with disabilities.
There is no doubt that in present times, we see people with varying disabilities holding all kinds of positions in the workforce as well as leading successful personal lives. Though we have more access to assistive devices and support than ever before, yet the stigma surrounding disabilities remains strong as ever. The truth is that people without disabilities are still afraid of the unknown. They do not realise that ‘people with disabilities’ is the only group in society that anyone can join at any time.
Through my writings, I aim to dismantle the idea that living with a disability is either something to be pitied or an inspirational act. If individual narratives are gathered into a larger collective voice, we all can provide a sense of urgency. There is power in numbers, and often the loudest voices begin with just one. I think that our growing strength and visibility will definitely make the goal of inclusive development increasingly possible.
I believe that if young persons with disabilities also start writing about their unique set of personal accounts and share experiences of their families in areas like healthcare, education, and employment, all of this can personalise advocacy.
Stories have the potential to spark a listener’s attention. Human beings are innately programmed to relate to fellow humans. When we relate, we begin to care and to take action. We all can harness the power of writing to make disability-related issues both concrete and personal.
Personal experiences can be insightful to lawmakers and affect potential legislation that benefits not only themselves but also those around them who have undergone similar challenges. The challenge is in acceptance. Through their writings, young people with disabilities can bring a lot more awareness. By removing attitudinal barriers, we can increase the opportunities for everyone. Not only this, they can get a chance to feel they have contributed something valuable.
Through my writings, I believe that, though little, I have been able to bring a few positive changes in society, especially for women with disabilities. It is rightly said that civilisation’s greatest single invention is the sentence. In it, we can say anything. Whether we are writing a novel or a letter, or whether it’s a tweet or a Facebook status, we should always share our stories and let the world know about us and our challenges. We ought to make our voices heard!