“A woman with a disability is like a double whammy in India. You are judged perennially by everyone around you. Trying and convincing people that even though, I am differently-abled, I CAN do things on my own is a daily ordeal. Somehow, people just do not understand that people with disabilities can also live their lives normally, too – differently, but yes, they can!” In conversation with Inclov, Sweta, who faces spina bifida (neurological disorder), talks about the daily travails of a differently-abled independent working woman, the difficulties of dating for disabled women in India and also about the single biggest factor impeding the inclusion of the differently-abled community in India.
Dating for Disabled Women in India: A battle on many fronts
“I am an independent working woman, into my late-20s, and yet I am treated like I a nubile 16-year-old child. It is annoying more so because people’s mindset are so ingrained with dated opinions about disability. The general apathy and the lack of awareness about the need for accessible facilities is petrifying.
A freelance content writer by profession, I have also dabbled with stand-up comedy in the past. I am based out of a co-working space in Pune and travel to my office multiple times a week for work (travel by cabs and autos only, forget public transport!). As an aspiring stand-up comedian, my subject choice is predominantly ‘disability’. Importantly enough, I don’t even need to create jokes per se, as real-life incidents related to disability, reactions from older generations, among others provides enough content for my satirical act.
A woman with a disability is like a double whammy in India. You are judged perennially by everyone around you. I want to live in a world free of judgement, especially wherein my physical appearance doesn’t determine the way people treat or mistreat me.
Lack of accessible infrastructure affecting inclusivity for differently-abled people
People with disability are almost isolated in this country. There is extremely rare integration or efforts for inclusion for us. The biggest cause of concern is the lack of accessible infrastructure in India. Coupled with ignorance about the needs of differently-abled people; inefficient infrastructure is the single biggest bane towards inclusivity in our society.
There may be reservation in colleges and jobs for us – but no one gives a thought as to how people with disabilities will attend colleges or even join offices, if there are no accessible ramps to assist them? Obviously, they will ‘struggle’, and thus not participate at all! This concept of struggle and sympathy will dilute only when the right atmosphere of understanding will be created.
Infrastructure is the stepping stone for promoting inclusion in the Indian society. I had spoken to some architects in the past and their definition of accessible infrastructure is baffling, to say the least. It feels like a vicious cycle of no infrastructure, no opportunity, and hence no inclusion.
Myths and misconceptions affecting dating for disabled women in India
Awareness about people with disabilities is extremely vital. My life is geared towards educating the “so-called” normal people about disability. I have written a monologue, made a 12-min documentary about disability (infrastructure or the lack of it, jobs, sexuality and everyday lives of the differently-abled people). I have also participated in an exhibition called ‘Towards Resistance’ while my installation is called ‘The Restroom Project’ – showcasing the dilemma of a differently-abled woman trying to enter washroom at a restaurant.
On the personal front, I am not averse to the concept of finding love or being married someday. Dating for disabled women in India is challenging. The problem is just not the lack of options but it is more about the mindset of people, the lack of awareness, the myths surrounding the term ‘dating for disabled’, or simply absence of any accessible infrastructure to meet someone. Like everyone else, I want to be happy, to be with a partner (person with disability or otherwise) who understands me as a person and helps me achieve my aspirations.
Someday, I also want to overcome the fear of travelling alone by taking a solo trip somewhere in India. This fear also emanates from the lack of infrastructure in the country. But, I really want to be able to muster up the strength to travel for about a week and live life on my own.