– A personal view, by Kuli
The Asian community regards disability with such abhorrence that they do not want to demonstrate that it exists. They continually refer to it as a punishment for your previous life. This affects so much of your life activities which normal people can do such as going out, going to university, getting married, cooking, having children, having relationships, having hobbies, interests and working. Disabled people within the Asian community are regarded as less likely to obtain these qualities due to the pressures and unawareness of others.
I proved this wrong.
Being an Asian woman born with cerebral palsy was extremely daunting especially living in an Asian community. I recall my mother saying “When you was born 32 years ago in India without any medical support, you were looked upon as double negative; being a girl and disabled. People said throw “it” in the river, who’ll marry her, she’ll be a burden on you for the rest of your life.” With this restricted mentality and pressures, my mother almost did. It was my father who saved me, and brought me over to England at a very young age.
I went to “Penn Hall Special School” where I was with other children with disabilities. I gained a lot from that school, because they offered us opportunities I would have never had in an ordinary Asian household or school.
I was very timid and shy especially when I was with other people, particularly when visiting people and community celebrations such as weddings, parties and visiting temples. I hated it because people just used to stare at me, and make me feel unimportant, alienated and an invalid. I was referred to as “handicapped” a word I loathed. Other children teased me, “Why do you walk like that, and talk like that?” I never answered their questions because I didn’t know myself. My parents were very unaware of this, when I mentioned this to them, they said it was my fault and I shouldn’t let it worry me. My younger brothers and sister were able-bodied and never understood how I felt. They too would make fun of me and gang up on me. This led to continual depression and unsettlement.
When I entered mainstream school into which my uncles referred me because they knew I had potential of gaining qualifications; this was quite a shock, as I was on my own in a secondary school (Colton Hills) full of “able-bodies” pushing, forceful, shoving and rough children. I loved this, because I wanted to mingle with others, but I was always afraid that I would be knocked about in the playground, where once a very large person was pushed onto me and almost flattened me. I started to enjoy this school lifestyle although I still had the protection from the school nurse and teachers and a taxi service taking me to and from school. I was very mischievous and explorative, trying all the things that the other children did. Many children started to behave like I had no disability, and the awareness of disability at Colton Hills grew, due to the increasing intake of children with disabilities.
Outside of school, I was trying doing all the things an Asian girl could do, except make the chapatti’s, which I could not manage. I had a passion for writing prose and poetry, which I wrote for pleasure as well as pain. The things I could not express to others I wrote on paper. I gained my GCSE’s and BTEC National. But I was very disappointed that I was not able to attend university, because my parents said I would not be able to manage alone. Then an opportunity rose to work for Wolverhampton Council, where I work to this day.
I experienced a long and awful time, while searching for a life partner. My parents and I made mistake after mistake. I suffered dreadful heartbreaks and heartache. But in the end I married a lovely man whom my parents had found for me in the first instance, but when I was not ready for commitment. Now I have a home, husband, two lovely boys and lovely people in my life. I thank God for the determination he put in me to fulfil my dreams. I know that some people are not that lucky.
When I see people in my community they are still very stunned and amazed to see that I have done all these things in my life, they don’t see me as human, they see me as a living thing who should not have rights or a mind of my own. The say “You must have done something good in your previous life, that is why God is standing by you!”
My conclusion to this is that disability is not one person’s problem, it is the whole community’s problem. Everyone has a disability, ones that can be seen and ones that can’t. It is the visible disability that is the problem in our community. The alienation of disability is in our routes, and this will take many generations to grow out, especially in the Asian community due to the lack of education and awareness