(File pix) Disabled celebrities, like veteran newscaster Ras Adiba Radzi, can be an advocate for other handicapped persons. Pix by Mohamad Shahril Badri Saali

I REFER to your report on Jan 23 about veteran newscaster Ras Adiba Radzi who, after spending 20 years in a wheelchair, was glad to finally be able to “stand up”, with the help of another special supporting wheelchair.

Her story is inspiring and she is a brave person. However, the focus of people with disability should not be on trying to escape their situation, but rather on improving things for society in general so that other people do not have to face the same situation.

When it comes to the disabled or handicapped, the story is usually about what they can do despite their disability. I think it is time for a new story, one that does not make the sick person the hero, but rather underlines the seriousness of his situation and his strong need for help and desire to be healed.

I was just watching the film Immortal Beloved, which is based on the life of German music composer Ludwig van Beethoven.

Although the events in the movie may be fictional, the producers did an excellent job at describing the agony that Beethoven went through when he progressively lost his hearing.

The isolation from the rest of the world, the inability to participate in ordinary day activities, and the fact that he could not listen to the music he had written were all reason of great consternation to him. The doctors had no cure, they could not tell him why he was sick, and the medicines they gave him often made him sicker.

It is little surprising that Beethoven developed resentment and deep anger towards a world that neither understood his sickness nor offered a cure.

Similarly so for every person who is born with a disability or struck by it later in life. A physical disability isolates you, you are no longer a whole person, you feel humiliated, and you start living in a world of your own. This is what a high-profile celebrity who becomes disabled should tell the rest of the world.

Disabled people require understanding and, yes, some pity. Nevertheless, they do not need to live a pitiful life, and many things could be done to improve their quality of life, as well as their emotional wellbeing.

Ras Adiba became disabled when:

SHE was involved in a car accident;

SHE was victim of an assault; and,

SHE had an accident in her home.

These causes were preventable and can be addressed, and the situation improved to the point where other people do not suffer tragic consequences.

Teach people better driving habits and have more policemen monitoring the streets so that motorists follow traffic rules and drive safely at all times. Offer better protection to the victims of assault, ensure the culprits are caught and adequately dealt with.

Educate the young and old about safety measures in the home so that accidents do not happen to them in the very place they are supposed to be the safest.

If you believe that God has given you a talent to help other people, the same must also be true of a disability. You should use your disability to save others from becoming disabled, and also to find a cure for whatever ails your own self.

Disabled celebrities should lobby on behalf of other handicapped and stand up for their betterment. The government should pay a disability pension to cover all living costs, plus whatever extra aid is needed.

For example, the services of a home nurse. Operators of public places should keep their promise of reserving lifts for the use of people on a wheelchair first, and the general public should be taught to treat the disabled person with professionalism, courtesy and respect.

Finally, we learn from science that there is a cure for every illness. And, it is true that getting better is also up to you. Do not stop looking for a cure. For some comfort, look at the statistics which show that one in every 10 people afflicted with an “incurable” sickness is suddenly cured. Yes, they have miraculously been made perfectly healthy again.

But a cure is more difficult to find if you defy your illness. Accept it and try to improve on it. The past is a reminder that we must improve the future.



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