Why Indians Don’t Care About Disabilities Or Diversity!


Mom, look at those kids, they don’t want Aarshia to play with them.” My son shook my arm while I was blissfully enjoying my book by the pool in Goa. We were on a vacation and my son and daughter were playing in and around the pool, and I was happily engrossed in my book. I am used to this behaviour where children feel my daughter ( who happens to have Down syndrome) would get hurt or would not be able to cope up with their games and rules, so they generally decide it is best for all the parties if she doesn’t play. Sometimes I insist but sometimes I just let it go, like this time and I asked my son to play with her instead. After they both got busy playing, I looked at the other mothers who were looking at my daughter and talking in hushed tones, may be trying to figure out what is wrong with her. I closed the book and started thinking that if this generation is still not sensitive towards children with disabilities then there is a strong possibility we are pushing away the dream of a sensitized world by a hundred more years.

I tried thinking of the reason why we as a society are so averse to changes and anything that is unfamiliar. The truth is we don’t believe in changing the age old worn out traditions and beliefs that have no place in today’s day and time. While we keep talking about unity in diversity and other such popular terms every day, the truth is completely different. Deep inside we all are afraid and very uncomfortable of any idea, person, thought or thing that we don’t find familiar. The stigma associated with special needs, homosexuality, people from other regions or religions, has the same root cause. Theoretically we are a country of diversity, we speak over seven hundred languages and ours is one of the most religiously diverse nations but when it comes to the stigmas associated with things beyond ones’ control, we are probably ahead of all.

Also read:  My Secret Confession As A Special Needs Mother

And these are not common normal issues; we have strong convictions against anything that doesn’t fall within our so-called realm of Indian familiarity. We as a society have always been unappreciative of diversity. If thought through carefully, this is one of the major reasons why intellectual disabilities are still considered fearsome and the people affected with it, aliens! We fear what we don’t know and while the knowledge helps us understand, the problem is we don’t want to learn or know. We see everything as black and white, right and wrong, even if there is a spectrum of colours for us to explore.


I would like to believe that people staring at my daughter or talking about her in hushed tones, have never had any opportunity to be with somebody who had Down’s syndrome whereas a lot of people in countries like US or UK have had the chance to be in the same classroom with other special needs children. They’ve had children coming from single parent homes, gay households, and other culturally diverse backgrounds, which means when these children see somebody different, they are more accepting of them and would not put them into the category of good or bad. We on the other hand are more on the one side of the fence where we not only judge people based on their race, caste, ethnicity, region, religion, handicap, looks and other things that are beyond ones control, but we also make sure that we convey the same to our children consciously or subconsciously. The truth is, culturally we were never taught to be sensitive towards diversity.

One recent article  that shows our fear about the special needs people or anything different in general highlights the trauma often faced by the parents. This article is about Shanti Auluck, the director of Muskaan, a training and work centre for intellectually disabled. Shanti Auluck is a doctor of psychology. She confessed how about 20 families visited her home in New Delhi with their sons to arrange a marriage with her daughter, but all of the families were turned off by the fact that she had a son with Down’s Syndrome. The important fact here to notice is that the girl in question is ‘typical’, ‘independent’ and everything else about the family is good, but because she has a brother with special needs, she had to face this stigma, without any fault of hers or of her parents. Again, the culprit is ignorance and fear of unknown.


Diversity brings richness, not just of thoughts but of actions. At a workplace, people from diverse backgrounds can integrate best practices to bring optimum output. At home, diverse age groups mean healthy and valuable conversations across generations. The diversity in a classroom where children with special needs study means a better environment which would create sensitive and responsible adults, who would not fear people with disability but would help them engage at the level they can perform.

I believe this is time, where we need to raise our acceptance level and take it to new heights. A long time peace activist William Sloan Coffin has rightly said “Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without”. Tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and all encompassing acceptance without judgement are more essential than ever. And as Nelson Mandela has put it beautifully, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite.”

The above article appeared in Parentedge. See here http://parentedge.in/are-we-afraid-of-diversity/