A blind man completed a full 25 kilometers marathon that I had participated in recently.
Yes, not differently-abled, not specially-abled, or any label which we choose to make them feel better (because we don’t) — blind.
Marathons are great events to witness empathy, compassion and a host of other human emotions — fellow runners cheering as you run, patting your back, smiling and laughing with you through the pain. What was different in this case was that people seemed to offer more sympathy than empathy.
While I appreciate the thought and intention behind these, what we really need is some more efforts towards creating a genuinely inclusive society. The problem with using these labels is that they stem more from a position of pity than using it as an opportunity to create more normalcy, which is needed.
What do we mean when we say differently/specially-abled? Everyone is differently and specially -abled. You are. I am. We have our own abilities and then there are some we don’t. You do. I do. Does that make us handicapped in any sense? No.
This crippled attitude towards disability of any kind is ironically normal.
Although most of it isn’t intentional and exists because of social conditioning into the way we function, we need to consciously make an attempt to change it. We should rather accept realities, our limitations, our disabilities for who we are, what it is and instead focus on making lives normal. For everyone, everywhere, without any labels.
Focus on making public places more accessible to everyone; make workplaces and educational institutions more open; make spaces and lives more inclusive. We should stop limiting ourselves to the labels of who we are, what we can do do and what we can’t.
To the blind man at the race — you did an incredible job at finishing the grueling race, like the rest of us, your fellow differently/specially-abled humans.