International Day of Disabled Persons: How Kashmir’s physically challenged turn adversity into opportunity

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Srinagar: Blindness couldn’t darken the dreams of 21-year-old Zakiya from Bijbhera. She always yearned to go to school, but her disability evoked negative perceptions and discrimination. 

“Being a kid I had no concept that I am blind. But with time maturity hit me and I came to know that what I am”, said Zakiya.

A ray of hope rekindled when her uncle told her about the school exclusively established for physically challenged people. “I was more than happy. I learned the braille first. Then I passed out 8th standard and went to a local higher secondary for further studies”, she said.

Her dedication and hard work paid off when she shined in her board examinations. “Alhamdulilah I got 82% in my 10th class and my worst nightmares began to turn into my best dreams. Later, I took admission in Aligarh Muslim University for my further studies and passed with 88% in 12th class”, said Zakiya.

Zakiya said that she was never satisfied with the administration of the J&K Board of School Education (BOSE) since they put many conditions on physically challenged people. 

“Physically challenged people need a helper in the examination. But according to BOSE, the helper should not be a blood relation. The helper should be two classes junior. It is mandatory that the helper should be from government school”, she said.

Zakiya is currently pursuing graduation from DU in English and history. “I want to make my parents and Kashmir proud”, she said.

Zakiya is not an isolated case. Hundreds of people with different disabilities are setting a new example of grit and determination.

Sample this:  Wheelchair borne Jan Mohommad Bhat of Bijbhera thought that his world has ended when he met with an accident in 2000.

 “I was in the hospital for a month. After sometime doctors asked me to stay home”, he said.

However, he did not lose hope and continued physiotherapy sessions for two years. 

Life took another turn when his automatic car was destroyed in the 2014 floods. Despite facing a very hard time, he didn’t give up and decided to move on. “In 2010 I started to work in the army. I worked there for almost 4 years”, he said.

In 2016, he got a new car and started work as a civil contractor. “I have faced many challenges in my life but I never give up. Alhamdulillah I am working in tourism and R&B as an A-class contractor”, said Bhat.

 Director of Social Welfare, Bashir Ahmad Dar told The Kashmir Monitor that they provide Rs 1000 monthly to physically challenged people. “We have also established Abhinanda Home for physically challenged in Rambagh. We should always treat physically challenged as normal persons so that they don’t face any psychological disadvantage”, he said.

Javed Ahmad Tak, honorary chairman of Humanity Welfare Organization, said this year the theme of World Disabled Day is `Building Back Better and Accessible Inclusive Sustainable Post Covid -19 Free World for persons with Disabilities’.

  “Physically challenged people have suffered a lot during this pandemic. They couldn’t get the training and physiotherapies which we used to provide them. This year we focus on how to fill the gap which was caused by the pandemic”, he said.

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