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Yes, I’m a person with disability. And I’m proud

Posted by L. Subramani

Bio: My name is Subramani, a journalist for 20 years living in Bangalore, India. I became totally blind aged 18 due to a genetic retinal condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa which transformed my life as a teenager. Before the onset of the condition, I was an able-bodied teenager with dreams of graduating as an accountant. But after going blind, I aspired to be a journalist and after five years of freelance writing, became first a reporter and later a copy editor for Deccan Herald, one of the famous English dailies in India and the most famous in my town. Now, I am one of only two or probably three totally blind journalists in the employ of a newspaper in India. In 2014, my memoir “Lights Out: The True Story Of A Man’s Descent Into Blindness” (ISBN: 13: 9788184003512) was published by Random House India. The memoir dealt with how the emotionally traumatizing retinal condition posed a serious challenge to my life and hurt my family that struggled to cope with the idea that I was gradually going blind and would one day be completely blind. “Lights Out” helped several hundred suffering gradual vision loss and their families, some of whom reached out to me to thank me for the book. Reviewers and interviewers praised the book for showing the painful process of slow blindness, its debilitating effects and from the depths from which I had to claw back into leading a normal life. I’m working on my second memoir. Reach out to me at: lsubramani.visa@gmail.com

Here’s a common experience among people with disability.

Our friends and well-wishers squirm when we make a direct reference about our disability.

Like this gentleman, who was quite alarmed when I used the word “I see” in a casual and, without a doubt, figurative way. “How can you see?” he asked me, as if seeing could be only physical and restrictive.

“Yes, I can see,” I told him, “the problem is, you think seeing is only in the eyes.”

For far too long, people with disability had struggled to break free of the stigma and stereotyping. Despite education, many of us weren’t truly in the mainstream because we needed the so-called ‘special tools’ to read or write. Technology has now solved that problem.

Now, we could communicate (read, write and express ourselves) through the social media platforms, showcase our interests and motivations to the world without feeling the pressure to prove ourselves.

Like this: I can write and you can read, without letting my disability come in the way.

Also, this is the technology age; the age of enlightenment, which lets us celebrate our uniqueness as human beings and use our identity to create an inclusive society. We need not be apologetic about who we are. We get more opportunities to talk about our life experiences with universal messaging.

The one common thing that binds all of us (able-bodied or disabled) is the fact that we all face life challenges. In fact, people with disability are in a unique position as problem solvers since we face far steeper and at times unforeseen challenges. We’re best suited to be troubleshooters.

It’s quite possible therefore to call myself a person with disability and mean it in a positive sense. And why not? Disability hasn’t made me inferior, even if some people think it does. Obviously, a few in the society would never get it, but that shouldn’t be my problem.

And I bring this almost like a newsflash to many of my brothers and sisters with disability: never be apologetic about your disability. It’s not the result of sin or the punishment bestowed on you by god: it’s just that god (or nature), in its wisdom, has designed you quite uniquely and it must definitely be proud of your success. No one can question your survivability in tougher conditions.

And you should use disability as a positive identity. As people who’ve learnt (the hard way) to look at life as half full, it behooves us to spread the positive message and expose the positive side of disability. Yes, the limitations are obvious, but not always negative!

So, celebrate your disability. And include people of all races, societies, countries and identities in your celebration. We don’t need uniformity to achieve unity.

Yes, I’m a person with disability. And I’m proud

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