Living with a disability in a world that generally favors the abled isn't easy. Add a lack of money, resources and cultural stigma to the mix and you have people who are capable but often left behind by their community and even those who are there to help. But this year, that will change.
The UN releases Sustainable Development Goals every few years (the last set came in 2000) that include plans to reduce global poverty. The last plans didn't address poverty in relation to people with disabilities but this plan will.
To show how monumental and important inclusion is, Sightsavers — an international charity that provides assistance to the blind — decided to visually and verbally capture what life is like for people with disabilities by giving them a voice. But instead of only capturing their struggles, it highlighted their successes and their path to confidence once they were given the support they needed, a trend that needs to continue to truly put an end to global poverty.
The project was named Framing Perceptions.
"[People with disabilities who are poor] are less likely to have access to health care and education, and in turn find earning a livelihood and lifting themselves out of poverty that much more difficult, if not impossible," Julie Jenner told A Plus.
The images taken of Indian and Ugandan natives by photographer Graeme Robertson illustrate the positives that can come from helping those who are disabled get there.
When Anuradha was just a year old, she fell into a fire that badly burned her hands a face. Because of the burns left behind by the accident she grew up feeling shy and self-conscious. But after meeting a group of other people with disabilities like hers, that's changed. She noticed how others continues on even with their disabilities and aspired to be like them. She grew more confident and currently works as an elected government official.
"There are many people with disabilities who can contribute to society, like we are standing on our own feet and doing things for ourselves, " she told Sightsavers.
Being a single mother is tough, but being a single mother who is also blind is arguably even more rough — especially living in a society that tends to shun those with disabilities. It's her friendship with another woman with disabilities that is helping her adjust to her new normal and build up her confidence.
Saleh's empowerment comes through his education, which specializes in teaching visually impaired students. According to Sightsavers, the many teachers there are blind as well, "acting as role models, inspiring confidence and giving encouragement" for the 15-year-old and others.
Manju Devi Meghwal
When Manju was 7 years old, she had a bad allergic reaction. But the hospital gave her the wrong treatment, leaving her needing to walk with crutches. It was after humanitarian group Urmul Trust educated her on resources she was able to have access to — like a special bus pass — that she became inspired to help others with disabilities as well. She began a self-help group and as president runs the meetings.
"Before I never could imagine that I could do productive work but now after going to so many meetings I'm confident that I can do this work," she said.
Sankarlal was the victim of an acid attack that left him blind when he was 30. After being able to see for 30 years, living life blind was a hard adjustment — he lost his job and relied on his son for support. But he gained confidence when a government initiative that helps people with disabilities allowed him to set up a shop in his home. He also works with his local disabled people's organization (DPO) making sure people with disabilities can receive loans to be financially independent.
"I want to see the organization strengthened and ensure that any disabled person in this village has the opportunity for a productive livelihood, so no one is vulnerable or left behind," he said. "I want to keep working for as long as my body allows me."
Sohanlal lost his arm while working on construction on his house. He got electrically shocked which caused him arm needing amputation. He couldn't work and the incident caused turmoil between him and his wife. He, too, gained support, with other people with disabilities and financially, through the DPO and is now able to feel independent again.
"I'm able to earn and take care of my family."
Swabil attends Bishop Willis Primary School, a school that puts mainstream students side by side with students who have disabilities so they aren't excluded. They also teach them the skills they need to live independent lives.
"I like it here because the other children are a help to me," he says.
Like Sankarlal, Sankarlal lost his vision, but due to cataracts when he was 14. He still married and had children, but needed his wife to support him as job opportunities were limited. For him, confidence came with help from the DPO as it was able to help him apply for a loan. He went from selling from a bike to buying a house and selling his goods there.
"Now I earn myself. Before people thought I was unproductive, they pitied me, but now I stand on my own legs. My family thinks I am one of them and can do what they do," he said.
Susan is a blind child who also attends the same school as Swabil and already has big dreams.
"I like learning," she said. "I love English and social studies. I want to be a nurse when I'm older."
(H/T: The Huffington Post)