According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, 2014), around 15% of the world’s population, or estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities, comprising of the world’s largest majority. Disabilities encompass a wide range of impairments ranging from both physical as well as psychological disabilities. Regardless of the nature of the individual’s disability, its impact on the personal, academic, social as well as occupational functioning is manifold. Moreover, the impact of these disabilities when translated into long term management becomes a major challenge, which could have adverse effects on the individual’s quality of life. Since 1992, the 3rd of December every year has been promoted by the United Nations as Disability Day. This is used as an opportunity to promote an understanding of people affected by a disability and mobilize support for their well-being.

Recognizing our Societal Responsibility

Adults or children with a disability are likely to have been facing challenges throughout their lives. Such life experiences would have caused some damage to their self-esteem and confidence in the process. Therefore, as responsible members of the society, it is our role to provide support for them, to encourage their efforts.

In addition, it has been reported that people with disabilities have less access to health care services and therefore experience unmet health care needs. These statistical reports reiterate the need for creating an awareness about this issue, and highlighting our role in helping such individuals overcome the challenges.

Changing Attitudes towards an Acceptance –

i. Break through stereotypical thinking. It is a common tendency to hold prejudices and judgements against anybody who is a minority, or who is different from the majority. However, such an attitude makes us fall prey to stereotypical thinking, as we negate the individuality of the person, and rely on the society’s judgments to make our opinion. Moreover, such a thinking is likely to influence our behaviour as well, making it more challenging for the differently abled persons.

ii. Not ridiculing. Differently abled individuals might appear or behave differently. However, we should never mock or laugh at their disabilities, and should respect their individuality. Ridiculing others will only hurt their sense of self, and would make life even more difficult and challenging for them.

iii. Balance our expectations. While differently abled persons might be facing various challenges in their way, it is important not to let them lose hope or give up. We should encourage an optimistic outlook, and urge them to be perseverant. At the same time, it is necessary for others to avoid having unrealistic expectations from the individuals with disability. We should consider their limitations and help them work towards their goals which are in alignment with their potential level.

iv. Acknowledge their strengths. Instead of reminding differently abled children and adults of their limitations, we should encourage them to focus on their strong points. Nurturing their strengths will help them not only feel empowered, but will help them feel work towards becoming independent and self-reliant.

v. Be empathetic. Try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand and relate to their experiences. Not only will such an empathy help us be grateful for what we have, but will also help us connect to individuals with disability, and develop a more positive and supportive attitude towards them.

To conclude, the need of the hour is to make all levels of existing health care systems more inclusive and easily accessible. It is not only important to create a sensitivity towards the individuals with special needs, but also essential to promote the establishment of adequate support systems for such sections of the society to ensure the maximum utilization of their potential.