“All men are created equal.” First coined in the United States Declaration of Independence, this statement has long been honored in our society. However, one might ask: Why are there people with deformed or missing parts? People who can’t see, hear, talk or move? Questions like these may lead to discrimination that Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) often fear, if not suffer from.
According to the World Health Organization, “Overcoming the difficulties faced by people with disabilities requires interventions to remove environmental and social barriers.” What interventions should be done to remove these “barriers”? As we celebrate the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week, people must know the answer.
Crismario “Cris” Saad is a civil engineering student in Silliman University. At birth, he had acquired a congenital anomaly that caused his hands to become deformed. Because of this, he experiences difficulties in performing certain activities like playing instruments and engaging in sports.
Saad said that he shies away from interacting with large crowds fearing that people might judge him based on his appearance. He also wonders about how he would be able to get a job and build a family in the future. Despite of his worries, Cris strives to remain optimistic. “Musalig ra gyud ko sa Ginoo. Whatever happens, happens, kay naa ra gyud koy purpose [in] life.”
The condition that Saad had acquired didn’t stop him from living a happy life. A Sillimanian since elementary years, he found a welcoming community in this institution that accepted him wholeheartedly. With help from his family and friends, he was able to overcome his personal insecurities. “Dako kaayog support ang akong family and friends to live life ra gyud despite the circumstances, and also ni God pud kay dapat naa pud koy himuon diri. Dili always na ako muy tabangan so ako puy mutabang sa uban.”
Saad calls out to people who are experiencing the same struggles he does. He believes that no matter what their disabilities in life are, they are made equal just like every human being in the world. He advised that even with their circumstances, they are not inferior to “normal” people; they have their own differences that make them special.
“We have to embrace our differences because [those are what] makes us unique. [Just because] naa kay disability, [doesn’t mean] dili ka maka-live life like other ‘normal’ people. Dapat mas ma-inspire pud ka [to] work harder and also to inspire others na makaya gyud nimo,” Saad said.
What our society calls “disabilities” may be burdens, but they should certainly not be restraints. They should not be reasons to prevent a person from living an ideal life, nor should they be borders that separate people from one another. Instead, they should be treated as challenges for the PWDs to show to the world what they can do.
“Kitang tanan, we’re all the same pero not quite ‘the same’ because we have certain strengths and weaknesses [of our own]. Dapat dili ta mu-limit sa atong self kay, for example, naa kay disability, that doesn’t mean you can’t do what other people can do. You can also do it if you work hard and if you motivate yourself,” Saad said.
In the words of Nick Vujicic, a motivational speaker who is himself a PWD, “The challenges in our lives are there to strengthen our convictions. They are not there to run us over.” People like Cris who face these struggles every day, yet are strong enough to retain a positive outlook on life, deserve recognition, respect and most of all, support. It is society’s care, understanding and inclusion of PWDs which breaks the barriers.