Most of us struggle with it - how to connect with people who have disabilities. There’s a sense of discomfort for most, with the exception of those with a natural gift for empathy.
So, how best do we deal with matters that make us uncomfortable? We push them away. It becomes something for others to deal with.
This is precisely how we seemed to have addressed people with special needs. But, for a society to truly evolve, it has to be open and inclusive - we have to make a concerted effort to bring people with special needs into our daily environment.
The website girlshealth.gov/disability site offers some simple tips that can be adapted and adopted to achieve this:
Before you give help, ask if the person needs it. The person might want to do things for herself/himself.
It’s okay to ask a person about his/her disabilities. But don’t be offended if they don’t want to talk about it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are not sure how to act.
Invite friends with disabilities to spend time with you. Think about ways to make sure they can be included in the things you do.
Do not to park in places reserved for people with disabilities.
When you go to restaurants and shopping malls, check to see if a friend with a disability could be there with you. If not, you can be a good friend by asking the manager to put in ramps, get raised numbers for the elevators, or have Braille menus printed.
Children with disabilities can have it tough sometimes. Be friendly and welcoming to them. And if you see them being bullied, get help.
Our top report for September, “More parking spaces for disabled desperately needed” by Gulf News reader Keshav Nair, talks about the need to create an urban environment that offers people with disabilities more options to live, work and play. It was published on September 1. He’s definitely trying to build a more inclusive world. Hopefully it will inspire many more readers to do the same.
Second place goes to the September 14 report, “Saving a fragile ecosystem”, by Kehkashan Basu. It is about a group of youngsters who strive to protect the environment through various initiatives. This time around, they braved the summer heat to clean up Abu Dhabi’s mangroves, which are essentially the lungs of the Earth, along with being a nursery for many marine species.
Third place goes to Nityashri Sankaran for her September 22 report, “Dumping used furniture outside homes creates problems for others”. She talks about how furniture is “the least recycled item in a household”. This just adds to the burden on the environment, along with being an eyesore and breeding ground for germs. Dubai Municipality has bulk waste collection services. Something similar needs to be established across all emirates, to help protect our environment.
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First place: Keshav Nair
Published on September 1, 2016
Keshav Nair, a pupil based in Sharjah, has been interested in community reports for a while and says that he reads each one that is published.
He said: “I feel that this is an excellent platform to raise and spread awareness to others, and I have learnt a lot by reading the community reports published in Gulf News. I have received excellent remarks from my relatives when I meet them and also from my friends. My teachers have also congratulated me after my report was published.”
Nair has written to the newspaper many a times and hopes to continue his journey of raising awareness through his written words.
Second: Kehkashan Basu
Published on September 14, 2016
Kehkashan Basu, a student based in Dubai, has been writing community reports for many years. As the founder of a youth sustainability organisation, Green Hope UAE, Basu has been “working to spread environmental awareness amongst society for the past eight years”.
She said: “Community reports play an invaluable role in engaging civil society, especially with regards to social and environmental causes, such as mine. They serve to amplify the voices from within and are, therefore, quite easy to identify with. We have been overwhelmed with the response that came from across all age groups. All of them have expressed a keen desire to join us in our future endeavours.”
Third: Nityashri Sankaran
Published on September 22, 2016
Nityashri Sankaran, a pupil based in Sharjah, loves to read, write and take photographs. Whenever she comes across an environmental issue, she says her first thought is to take a picture, do some research and write a community report for Gulf News.
She said: “Community reports reach a wide audience and are the best way to spread awareness to the masses of common issues of concern and the corrective measures needed to avoid the situation. I wish to inspire and motivate more students to write on common issues, which can be corrected, to improve safety and hygiene and promote a greener environment. I noticed it was a common sight to see furniture dumped in residential areas and so discussed it with my friends and wrote about it.”
— Profiles compiled by Rabab Khan/Community Interactivity Editor