Today is celebrated as World Disability Day. It is fitting tribute to those, who flicker momentarily in the rearview mirror of our consciousness, but who deserve so much more for the individual and collective strides that have given them the opportunity to expand personal visions and to believe in the fullest range of possibilities.
The severely limiting afflictions that can interfere with passage of this life do not have to be as restraining, as once was accepted as one’s fate delivered and lot in life to be lived.
Today’s realities should motivate to appreciate the many contours of this existence, which can be probed and grasped to extract the best out of circumstances, and be the best that individual potential holds deep inside. Nothing is off the table of consideration, whether for the physically or mentally challenged, and be it a presence in economic, political, and social life.
As paralyzing as a stroke may be, some still dig deep and discover strong stirrings of the spirit that catapult to another level, where the mental overcomes the physical, and emotional strength powers past feeling sorry for oneself and bringing resignation from life itself.
Similarly, there is no such thing as a cardiac cripple, even though there are certain safety measures that must be implemented by those so stricken. And it must be the same striving, spirited story for diabetics, the hearing and sight impaired, and the mentally challenged. As in all things, there is a matter of degree, of scale, of probabilities, of the combination of circumstances peculiar to each individual, family, and environment.
The environment in Guyana is slowly changing, through less of the demeaning, and more of the building to a proud place, a joyful space, a better quality of life for those, who have felt the hard and heavy hand of misfortune. There is a way to go, but the key is that a start has been made on several fronts: minimizing prejudices, nurturing a different, more hospitable culture, extending arrangements that could open doors and shine new, encouraging light.
A start has been made, from access ramps and friendly elevators to assistance with Braille features and auditory facilities. Mental health and autism and various syndromic ailments have enjoyed a kinder, more benevolent reception from an environment and culture that can be harshly unsparing.
Taking this to another level means that those with a different orientation, or a felling addiction, or a wasting psychological invasion, do not have to be scorned or mocked or subject to all the many horrors that come so easily at the hands of others.
It is a different world that we now inhabit, where the communication is respectful and caring, where the surrounding support structures are largely characterized by heads and hands that reach out to make the way a bit smoother. This hard life, already demanding, is made a shade more manageable, one degree sweeter in the tasting, in the real living, as though there is nothing that handicaps, and even the sky is not seen to be limiting.
It is a sterling mindset to have, and a good place to be for anyone, but it is especially meaningful for those who traverse life with recognized disadvantages. It is as if there are none, and for which they will lean on kind hands, but not be immersed in feelings of dependency, or that of being owed, or that life cannot be lived to the full.
We, in Guyana, have known or read or seen the uplifting examples of those who have mastered themselves, the hand they were dealt, and the challenges encountered.
There are the great stories of a sight-challenged graduate from the University of Guyana, of another who topped his music class, yet others who overcome the curses of poverty, of dyslexia, of alcohol and narcotics, of depression and violent domestic distress in its harrowing physical manifestations and amputating results.
The story of their lives rising through adversity and conquering the odds inspire us, who are left wondering and shaking head at the magnificence of it all. There is gaining the courage to reassess our own paltrier handicaps and believing enough to count our blessings, while saluting those disabled rising above their circumstances.
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