Culprits of stigmatization
Daily Mirror Editorial
Dec 5, 2011

Throughout history, the differently-abled persons were considered a burden. They were often abandoned, were considered ill-omens and called many derogatory names. This would have been our story had not the country faced a bloody war that left many in hospital beds with amputated arms and legs; a few in physiotherapy units, learning to walk with their artificial limbs. Yet, the story has many chapters to go, if one seeks a happy ending.

Sri Lanka, with a gruesome history of a thirty-year war, has an obligation to look after those who were rendered disabled by terrorism. Even though, the ex-soldiers who lost their limbs, eyesight and hearing due to such deadly attacks might account for a larger number, the civilians too cannot be forgotten.

For anyone who pays a visit to the military hospital, the picture of ex- soldiers manoeuvering about in their wheelchairs is a familiar sight. But sadly, the only instance they get to share the limelight is when a victory day is held; where they are compelled to become showpieces in the parade.

When the world is marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, as a country we need to rethink the way we treat this section of society, who like any other human being, have needs, dreams and above all aspirations to live better lives.. In any society, though however much developed it is, the differentlyabled persons, despite the cause of disability, who were always offered the back seats; their voices were often ignored. Instead of giving them necessary support, they were treated as second-class citizens. Even with a comparatively large population of differently-abled persons, whom we often say we respect and appreciate, Sri Lanka too has become a culprit of stigmatization.

In the venture of shattering the tinted glasses, through which the people had been looking at them throughout, it is commendable that laws and regulations are brought in to assure accessibility for the differently-abled persons to public places. This move not only hints that the days they had to live in seclusion were over, but also it speaks out the unspoken acceptance that people are finally viewing them in a different light.

When looking at a few differently abled persons who managed to turn the tables, it is obvious that given the right opportunities, like any other person, they have the potential to rise above the rest. To make them feel important and part of society, people’s approach to them should be changed in such a way that they feel they are being cared without being intimidated. Most importantly, what people do not realize is that they seek dignity when they are offered extreme kindness. They detest sympathy. All they seek is strength and support to stand on their feet, metaphorically if not literally.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka