New Delhi | 19 Dec. 2020
“I don’t want to use my walker in public. What people will think about me?”
“I will not step out of my home as people mock me due to my wheelchair.”
“My reading glasses don’t look good. I will go to the party without it as people always judge me when I wear it.”
These statements are so common with people who need assistive devices or mobility equipment but are shy from doing so due to society’s prohibitive outlook towards these devices. We see people’s inhibitions on using eyeglasses, hearing aids, walking aids and wheelchair as they don’t want to face the unsettling comments and inconvenient eye gazes.
People find it tough to be ready psychologically and emotionally and admit to themselves that they have a medical condition or old age. To be forced to use a cane, a walker, a brace, or a wheelchair is seems like a physical manifestation that we are weak and may be approaching our last days or our bodies are slowing down, or failing. We simply have a difficult time accepting the truth of that fact of life. They think using an assistive device will make them look ‘bechara’ (unfortunate) in front of the world. This pessimistic thinking keeps them indoor and away from many fruits of life that await them if they step out. Even if they have to use a cane, they do it with heavy heart and with dejection. It becomes a love-hate relationship.
To break this myth and shatter the stigma, Svayam ran a campaign ‘Use Your Assistive Devices #WithPride’ during 13 Sep. 2020 – 18 Dec. 2020.
Talking about the campaign, Ms. Sminu Jindal, Founder-Chairperson, Svayam, said, “We think about what people say more, and consequently ignore our own safety and comfort. Shouldn’t these attitudes and prejudices go now, for they are wrong and twice as harmful? We had launched #WithPride campaign to encourage people to shed their inhibition and stop bothering about what the world would say. After all, it is their lives and who are others to decide what they should do or not do. Assistive devices are not ‘shame’; they are empowerment. That is the core message of the #WithPride campaign.”
“Living life with a mobility device is independence. Terms like ‘wheelchair bound’ belong to ignorant times. Wheelchair doesn’t not bound, it is user’s freedom. Mobility equipment enables us to enjoy independence, go places and chase our dreams. Then where is the place for shame or stigma? It is all in mind and mind can be cleaned,” she added.
To strengthen the campaign, many stakeholders, users, celebrities who use assistive devices shared their life stories through videos. These have been posted on social media platforms of the organisation.
Some of the messages are:
“We know that disability is a challenge, but we the disabled also know that disability is an opportunity to prove that with an Assistive Device like a White Cane or a Hearing Aid or a Crutch or an Artificial Hand or an Artificial Leg or a wheelchair, we can dare to dream big and achieve the impossible. So let us use our disability device as a Badge of Courage to prove to the world that our minds and our hearts, our bodies and our souls are invincible, that battles are won or lost in mind before they are won or lost on the ground and that with our Assistive Device we shall always overcome!”- Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo (Retd.)
“All the people, who have any kind of disability, should use their assistive devices and not feel any shame or bother about what the world is saying or what it would say because it is our responsibility that we come out of the house and use our device. Try to find out your best version. Because no one could tell you your best version until you find it yourself. So, please use your Assistive Device #WithPride and find out the best version of yourself!”- Shams Aalam, Indian Para Swimmer
“I am an ‘above-knee’ amputee and use a variety of assistive devices for my ease and comfort, like I use a crutch to move around at my house. I have a walking prosthesis. I use a different prosthesis for playing badminton and I have recently started using a new prosthesis for running and fitness. So, I want to tell all of you that you should proudly display your assistive devices/mobility equipment. Consider it as a part of your body and do not hesitate to use them.”- Manasi Joshi, international para-badminton player
“I use a wheelchair. But at one time, I used to fly an aircraft like the MIG25 nearly at three times the speed of sound. As to put it in a quote, ‘I am now from airborne to chair-borne’. I see the wheelchair as a friend, an Assistive Device which improves my quality of life and helps me go places and go places means not only within house; I have travelled all over the world including India. So don’t be ashamed of using your assistive device. They help improve the quality of life.” – Prabal Malaker, Group Captain, Indian Air Force
Subhash Chandra Vashishth, Director, Svayam, says: “Assistive devices not only empower people to step out and do their work with ease, they also help prevent further decay in health as not using a walking stick leads to more complications post a surgery. Freedom is non-negotiable and cannot be sacrificed for the sake of society’s prejudices. The campaign had garnered overwhelming support from so many people across the world.”
The campaign tried to inspire people to overcome their fears and insecurities, accept the facts of lives, face the challenges head-on, shed their inhibition and step out the house with their assistive devices or mobility aid without thinking about what the world would say, chase their dreams and achieve them like anyone else. There is no pity or shame; there are only chances to shine.
The campaign also encouraged people to see their assistive devices as a symbol of their disability, and embrace themselves what they are. It also tried to change the perceptions prevailing in the society towards mobility aid so that we can consider all as ‘equal’ despite their disabilities or mobility equipment.
Ms. Jindal beautifully summed up the campaign with her empowering message, “My wheelchair is a reminder that I’m a warrior; when life wanted to bring me down on my knees, I chose to run on my WHEELS!”