I’m convinced all of us are persons with disabilities.
Ten-year-old Karen*, who has double cleft lips and some missing fingers, demonstrated how my able hands were no match to her overflowing enthusiasm in playing volleyball.
“Tara, laro tayo! [Let’s play!]” She was coaxing me to the court.
It was the paralympics part of my organization’s National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week celebration. Earlier, Karen and a few other members of the group of PWDs in her small Rizal town were playing with her.
It happened so fast. Persons with disabilities play volleyball.
Ashamed, I declined. I really didn’t know how to play the sport decently. And I saw Karen’s amused disappointment. –Wait, was that furtive glance pity? Am I the one being pitied now?
Karen let the ball bounce on her hands a few times and then it hit me — no, not the ball, but the thought that, really, we all have some “disability”. Karen has hers, I have mine, and I’m certain you, dear reader, have yours as well. So it becomes really unfair to say disability is limited to physical or mental impairments. It can be attitudinal and behavioral as well. Take, for example, the bigot who could not see the dignity of one who is paraplegic or one who is in a vegetative state. Or one who could see the value of one living bacterium in Mars (if there’s any) and yet not see the person that is yet a zygote.
But then, probably the most “disabling” thing out there is fear. I feared playing volleyball at that moment for reasons mundane to personal; now I feel stupid. But yes, fear debilitates — and it must, because it can, be overcome. I’m pretty sure Karen used to fear playing volleyball at first. But she defeated herself and whoever didn’t believe in her.
Now this leads me to a further thought on Karen and other persons with disabilities. Man, they have mettle and skills some of us could never get! Frankly, it’s a shame we used to call them “the disabled” or “the handicapped” — as if that’s all they can ever be and do: to not be able.
Thankfully, now we see all that discriminatory outlook on PWDs dwindling. Because, really, everyone is capable: just give them the chance and opportunities that all human beings deserve (thus all these “accessibility” and “inclusive” efforts happening in public institutions). That way, disabilities in the technical sense can truly be overcome.
* not her real name