The differently abled members of society constantly face discrimination and exclusion from parts of society. Sometimes the biggest barrier is not the disability itself but society’s attitude toward people with disabilities. Sadly, cultural misconceptions play a huge role in excluding people with special needs.
6.2% of the population in Pakistan is differently abled in one form or another, out of which 70% are unemployed. The mistreatment often starts early, when most children are neglected or abused for being different. However, the mindset of society has changed over the past few years.
More and more NGOs and organizations have been working to make the use of wheelchairs accessible, especially among the underprivileged. From distributing free wheelchairs to using technology to encourage more mobility and freedom, the stigma around disabled people has been reduced, if not eliminated.
Enabling The Disabled
A wheelchair not only paves the way for mobility but, subsequently, independence. The key to an active lifestyle is the freedom to move around and carry out daily tasks without a helping hand. The reduced dependency on others also makes them more in control of their lives, boosting self-esteem and confidence.
Even though wheelchairs have been made accessible to some extent and wheelchair ramps are almost always found in public places, encouraging mobility is still not enough. Yes, wheelchair users can easily navigate the cities but are routinely met with pity and stares.
No amount of ramps and wheelchair facilities can increase the mobility of wheelchairs unless society’s mindset is changed.
Riding The Waves Of Confidence
Freedom and mobility are about access to public places and independence, making a person with disability more confident in themselves. Many differently-abled people lack confidence and, subsequently, have a high risk of depression.
The need to not be dependent on anyone else by using a wheelchair makes one more comfortable in their skin.
Making Educational Opportunities More Accessible
Children from lower-class families have a harder time getting a good education and healthcare. There aren’t enough good schools for them, and sometimes the teachers don’t come in to work. The healthcare facilities they can go to aren’t good enough either. All of these problems make things even worse for them.
It’s even harder for a child with special needs. Pakistan, which spends less than 3% of its GNP on education, continues to make education a far-fetched dream for many, especially for children with special needs.
Accessibility to education is denied by not creating wheelchair ramps within schools and buses. Hence the children remain invisible, especially in the public schools.
Children with disabilities often experience a lack of appropriate facilities and support. Unfortunately, they may also face bullying, teasing, and ridicule from both other students and even adults. This mistreatment adds to their difficulties and makes it even harder for them to feel included and accepted.
Mobility And Economic Growth
The stigma around wheelchair users makes them invisible in public spaces and forced to live within the four walls of their homes. If somehow educated, they are often not accepted into workplaces. Employers consider physically challenged people to be not as productive. However, the truth is far from this.
Not only are they equally productive, but not more, the economy is more likely to grow because of the increase in labor, for that will not only improve the standard of living but also allow wheelchair users more financial freedom.
Improved Quality of Life
In the past, being confined to a wheelchair used to mean being unhealthy and limited. But things have changed now.
Today, being in a wheelchair doesn’t stop someone from being healthy. People in wheelchairs can lead active and fulfilling lives. With advancements in technology, accessibility, and inclusive environments, individuals with disabilities can participate in various activities and maintain their well-being.
The Iron Lady of Pakistan
Muniba Mazari, the iron lady of Pakistan, is a woman to remember and idolize. Left paralyzed after meeting with a terrible accident, she proceeded to become one of the 100 most inspirational women. Despite being in a wheelchair, she made a name for herself as a social activist and the first woman in Asia to become a wheelchair-using model.
Despite the stigma around wheelchair users, Muniba Mazari’s story of brilliance and courage has broken stereotypes.
National Ability Sports Festival – Making the Future Accessible
Wheelchair athletes all across the country gather each year to participate in sports. From badminton to cricket and table tennis, the festival offers opportunities for freedom and resilience. Had it not been for the accessibility of the wheelchair, the sports festival would not have been successful.
“Disability is what paralyzes not one’s body, but their mind and spirit. It is a lack of support that makes a person mentally paralyzed. That is the actual disability.”
Azhar Ali, a 26-year-old batsman and a participant in the event.
The Three Women And Their Trip To Egypt
The three women, hailing from different parts of Pakistan, made headlines when their solo trip to Cairo went viral. Traveling without an attendant or a helper, the women, on their wheelchairs, set out to explore the pyramids.
Traveling in a wheelchair can be daunting, especially when small tasks seem monumental. However, in today’s world, where innovation and technology have reached new heights, maneuvering around has become easier. Traveling abroad is not impossible anymore. It is time to embrace freedom and independence with open arms!
A Sports Wheelchair – The Story of A Young Ayub
Polio survivor and wheelchair user Muhammad Ayub designed a wheelchair for himself to continue playing the sport he loves so much. The new sports wheelchair allowed him the mobility and freedom to play tennis.
With an investment of PKR 7,000 (US $24.43), Ayub transformed his life while holding on to his dream of playing tennis.
Eye Interaction – An Initiative
Eye Interaction, a brilliant start-up by three university mates established in 2020, became the highlight, and rightly so! The new wheelchair follows the movement of your eyes and moves accordingly. Not just that, but it can also be operated using a mobile application.
Although not as accessible as normal wheelchairs, the innovation has made mobility fifty times easier.
Facing a society steeped in prejudice can be soul-shattering. Despite pity and prejudice, the brave wheelchair warriors continue to break stereotypes by excelling at sports, education, and everything else. Indeed, wheelchairs have transformed lives by opening doors of opportunity and freedom. All that is needed right now is the inclusion of differently-abled people in Pakistani society.