MHAW: What is Disability? – A Talk

​If one were to ask you the question “Are you disabled?” What would your reaction be? Knowing most of us, we would probably keep wondering about the absurdity that surrounds it. I mean sure, all of us have heard of individuals with “disabilities” and often even tagged them, but to think of us as having one? No! We’re completely normal. Or so we say.

To challenge this very notion, The Psychology department in lieu of the Mental Health Awareness Week organised a talk with Mr. Mohit Ahuja, a former advertising and photography professional, who recently started working as a photography teacher for differently abled students at Shaurya, an NGO in New Delhi. Bikers for Good, an initiative that he is a part of, is motorcycle community of bikers from all across the world with an aim to spread awareness about the various disabilities in innovative manners such with involve Bike rallies and various biking competitions. The talk began in a very thought provoking manner as we were shown a video of an event called the Biker’s Mela where various bikers were asked to describe the qualities of a blackened picture which was intended to be that of a 21 year old individual who practices Taekwondo and the answers which followed involved the stereotypical “Must be tall, must have really good muscles, must have a very fit body”. To each of our surprise, it was actually a person, Anubhav, with Genetic Micro Syndrome which is the cause for several impairments including deformities in growth. It is often baffling, the kind of “tags” that we add to our perceptions of how certain individuals are supposed to be like and it was definitely able to evoke a string of thoughts in our minds. 

He went on to talk about his own experience with his elder sister, whose disabilities were the reason he felt so strongly about the cause. During his work with 92.7fm he and his colleagues came up with a clipping which questions the very basis of what a disability actually is and goes on to emphasize on how important it is for all of us to accept our nuances and shortcomings and work our way up. It was truly great to see the perspective of a Non-professional in the field of psychology or psychiatry to bring up the often very pivotal aspects such as the need for adequate understanding, sensitivity as well as commitment on behalf of parents, caregivers as well as peers. The harsh reality of the lack of innovation in dealing with such individuals as well the need for ample opportunities for them to prove their calibre gave us an insight as to how there is actually a lot of scope in this field and how we, as a majority of Psychology students in the room have the professional understanding to be able to bring about a much needed change. 

In a little activity in order to sensitize all of us, he introduced us to the hashtag #Iamnotalabel and we were all asked to replace the word “label” with the tags that we have survived with and write it on a board. It surely felt cathartic to all of us. The conclusion of the talk was again another video; where an initiative was taken to make Eno, a person with Wilson’s Disorder, explore his love for photography. It was heart-warming to see how everyone visiting the Mela organised treated him as an equal, as another human being, the way it ought to be.

Surely, we all need a little push in our lives. We all have certain “disabilities” we do not wish to be reminded of constantly, so don’t the individuals with actual deformities and it is time we embrace them rather than ostracise them. We all were left with a wonderful feeling and were definitely willing to rid ourselves and other individuals from Labels. And of course, a special mention to our Photographer for the event, who made us realise that life is what we make of it and all of us are capable of following our passions and dreams.

To know more about the work of the speaker visit http://www.weareoneride.com or check out Bikers for Good on Youtube.
By
Archisha Bhattacharjee

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