Prejudices Against Persons With Special Needs – Why Is It Happening?
We are living in the 21st century; the age of enlightenment, the age of Smart phones, tablets, ultra-thin laptops and cars fitted with navigational equipment. . . Well, you get the picture. But even in this era of advanced technology, I’m really sorry to say that human attitude and behavior towards Specially Abled members of society haven’t altered that much.
When I was a child, I used to frequent the neighbourhood park. One day, I found the other kids playing as usual, but a young boy who was no more than 7 or 8 years old, was sitting under a tree by himself, staring forlornly at the other kids who were obviously having a great time. Thinking maybe he was hurt, I went over and asked him why he wasn’t playing with the other kids. He informed me matter-of-factly that he couldn’t run around and do most of the things the other kids were doing because he had lost the use of his right leg due to polio. I was a 9 year old at that time and I didn’t fully comprehend what the boy was saying. But I understood that he wanted to play like the others, but couldn’t. So I jumped up and pulled him to his feet and offered to push him on the swing if he would do the same for me. His eyes lit up and he said that he was very happy as he was new to the neighbourhood and none of the children had offered to include him in their games till then and even called him “cripple” whenever they saw him. Now, when I think about this incident, I understand one thing perfectly: children model their behavior based on how the adults around them behave. No child is born with prejudice. What they observe and learn from their elders that impacts their behavior toward others. So let’s ask ourselves: what are we teaching our children?
Fast forward a couple of decades. Some people known to my family were quite determined to throw away their firstborn child, a baby boy. Why? The boy was born with a big tumor in his back which could press on the nerves which could potentially result in paralysis. This was only a POSSIBILITY, mind you. But the parents threw the baby away inside the premises of the city’s general hospital. The maternal uncle however, felt guilty and tracked the baby down and after a lot of red tape, brought him home. Why throw away the child in the first place? Children are God’s gifts. If this is true, aren’t special children God’s special gifts to the parents?
Some shocking events are reported in the news about the inconsiderate behavior of employees of some of the nation’s leading airline companies towards Specially Abled passengers. In some instances, the concerned passenger was asked to get down from the airplane while in others; wheelchairs were denied even after the passenger made a prior request for it while booking the ticket. What prompted such behavior? Surely passengers with special needs had flown in the same airlines before without being subjected to such outrage. In fact, a friend of mine who is blind was all praise for one of the airlines in question and was very surprised when she heard about these incidents.
To answer these questions, we have to delve a little deeper into the society’s collective psyche. The general perception of society towards the Specially Abled segment is that they are entitled to our pity but nothing more. This perception has not undergone any drastic change despite the fact that many members who belong to this segment have achieved a lot in their respective fields. Education has empowered the Specially Abled community to a great extent. They are NOT a burden to society. Tens of millions of persons with special needs earn a good living and pay income tax just like the rest of us.
So why are WE still clinging on to our prejudices while THEY are breaking the barriers that used to keep them from realizing their dreams?Next time, when you see a blind person struggling to cross the road, help him / her, but do it without a feeling of contempt.