The views expressed in this article are the author’s and are not necessarily the views of the partners.
If I have to talk about my experiences during the lockdown, then, as a person with blindness, my experiences were a mix of a lot of emotions and insights. On the one hand, my experience with the lockdown has been truly positive and worth-remembering, while on the other hand, it has been too dramatic. So, let’s proceed with this journey.
The idea of moving from physical devices to digital ones appealed a lot as it allowed me to stop being ‘technoplegic’. Moreover, spare time also provided me with a wonderful opportunity to overcome my shyness, thereby permitting me to make a lot of new friends!
This lockdown also helped me, as an individual, to understand a lot about persons with disabilities, and the importance of accessibility for living a fruitful life. This was thanks to many NGOs that work on disability, who organised a lot of webinars to educate everyone about such important aspects.
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18 year old Sanya Gandhi says “Once our disabled community realizes that regardless of disability we need to work together in a cross disability approach, quite a few of the barriers would be remedied”. . In her article for Youth Ki Awaaz she talks about her experiences during lockdown period as a young person with disability. . She also interviewed Deaf Activist Saudamini Pethe, to understand things from the deaf perspective and strengthen her understanding of the cross disability approach. . Do give this article a read! Link in our bio. . #CrossDisability #DisabilityRightsAwareness #covid19diaries
Life became more interesting during this lockdown when this time provided me with an opportunity to enter a ‘mentoring’ relationship with my friends currently studying in grade IX, who are really fun-loving and interesting people. It was a 3-month-long virtual program, which was voluntarily organised by four of us, to break the challenges associated with classroom-learning. It was also to lead and grow as individuals by studying several subjects together such as social science, English, values, and more.
The program resulted in a lifelong bond between all four of us! This relationship taught me the importance of staying happy as the atmosphere was as inclusive as it could be! These 3 friends accepted me for who I am, irrespective of my challenges and shortcomings. We could fill the so-called ‘social gap’, leading to the initiation of the process of destigmatization for me as a person with blindness and for others who chose to be friends with me in person.
However, there have been times when I have felt isolated and anxious due to decreased physical activities from my end. This is partly because, during this lockdown, we all had to stay at home while all the gyms and the health centres were closed. Whether you deny it or not, it is a fact that when we aren’t seeing, then, at some point of time, we often feel empty and void from within, thereby indicating that something is missing. However, as I reflect back, I realise that it was just an intrusive thought that conquered my mind during this lockdown.
Moreover, adding to this are my feelings of frustration, which lead to increased aggressive behaviour at home. During these heart-breaking moments, my family and friends proved to be a great support system for me. My parents always made me realise that I’m not alone, that they are always there for me, no matter what.
This is not the end of the story, dear diary, this was my experience. This is just a glimpse of it. Everyone has different things to share and the experiences of different people are subjective. So to understand this I talked to one of my friends from the Deaf community. I interviewed Saudamini Pethe who is an empowered woman and Deaf Activist.
She told me that, her experiences during this lockdown have been both positive and negative. She stated that “Thinking about the positives, the most remarkable factor is that the concept of Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) has been successfully initiated in India. Unlike earlier, where mostly the interpreter had to be physically present at the venue and had to do the interpreting for the deaf client, now, most of the interpreters are doing online interpreting. Especially in webinars and in online classes.”
While having a conversation on the aspect of social interactions, Saudamini stated, “During this lockdown, I realised that one should definitely maintain a strong social network.”
However, diary, every coin has two sides. While Saudamini has undergone some positive experiences during this lockdown, there are some negative experiences too. This has been the case with each and every individual during this lockdown.
During a conversation about her negative experiences, Saudamini stated, “Thinking about the aspect of social interactions, I would like to state that this lockdown has made it challenging for persons with deafness to engage in vibrant social interactions as sign language is just one component of social interactions, but it is not the entire thing.
Added to this is the importance of facial expressions and lip-reading. Since masks have covered the faces. So now it’s quite challenging to engage in vibrant social interactions.
For a person with deafness, video-calling is the only medium left for communication during this lockdown. Further added to these are some other challenges related to the unavailability of Indian Sign Language (ISL) interpreters during many online webinars and in most of the online classes. My online classes were not accessible. I am paying for an interpreter and hence can access online classes. But still, many students are unable to get proper access to the ISL interpreters. I can just say that online interpreting has started as a possibility unlike earlier, but there is no proper footing in India as of now.”
How can these challenges be resolved? The need of the hour is to identify our own strengths and limitations as persons with disabilities to advocate for rights of persons with disabilities and most importantly, if the entire community realises that we are all united from within, and we all are a family, then this can actually be a game-changer.
Once our disabled community realizes that regardless of disability we need to work together in a cross-disability approach, quite a few of the barriers would be remedied since for everyone family is the topmost priority and we try our level best to ensure their happiness.
Finally, if we collectively focus on individual battles of persons with different disabilities, then together there will be no challenge left, thereby ensuring better implementation of all the laws and policies at the state/national level.
These were some of our experiences during this Corona lockdown as a person with a disability and this is how I feel.
Written with a mix of emotions,