Volume 2 Issue 59 | June 6, 2009 |


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Editor's Note

Ready, Willing, Disabled

Even though for classificatory reasons we have categories, i.e. demarcations separating the able from the disabled, in reality it is more of a spectrum. A vast spectrum of abilities an individual may or may not have. Social, educational, legal and medical institutions make certain categories- labels such as 'handicapped', 'disabled', 'autistic' and so on. Not that these conditions aren't real. Not that they don't have very real effects on people who have to deal with someone in those conditions. But there are a lot of ideas, stigmas, connotations, assumptions that are created socially- by a common agreement. A strict definition separates the normal from the abnormal. At what point is a shy and quiet child, for example, no longer just a shy and quiet child, but 'autistic', with special needs, special doctors, special treatment and special schools? At one point do you stop reprimanding the child harshly for his lack of ability and instead go the other direction and give him or her extra attention, care and love? For the medical community, such questions are not to be asked. A medical condition is a medical condition and that's that. Either you have a 'special need' or you don't. But the reality of disability isn't 'this-or-that', it's much more complex. We all fall somewhere or another along a very long continuum and at some point the 'experts' decide we are too far from the norm.

There are a couple of stories in this issue about schools for the disabled. These places take care of eager and energetic kids who are either mentally or physically handicapped. The students read, write, socialise (according to their ability), go shopping, draw pictures and play sports. But of course, the stigma is sometimes so strong that these 'normal' activities only reinforce their difference for some. Even when they are being cared for, they are subtly being pushed far away, abnormalised, turned into deviants. The irony is that the very so-called 'normal people' who have throughout time and across the globe, come into power, committed genocide or plundered a nation's wealth through corruption, are the ones to calmly make a phone call to a medical expert, commissioning a new textbook on 'mental illness'.

Abak Hussain
From the Insight Desk

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