Those of us who have migrated outside Guyana and living abroad have become more civilized when it comes to being sensitive to people with disabilities. I squirm when I think of how insensitive I was as a child growing up in Phoenix Leguan. It wasn’t me alone but that was the order of the day. We used to show affection to those we love and consider our good friends by highlighting whatever is their disability. I remember I had a cousin who survived polio that left him walking with a limp. Guess what? His play name was hop-and -a -drop because that is how he walked. One of my school mates had big eyes, these days they call them beautiful but back then we called him big eye Charlie. Even though we were all black people (black in colour, ok some a little brown) some people were darker than others and those darker people we would fondly call darkie or blackie. Then there was big head Orson, or fine shrimps Parbhatie or drunken sailor boy, names like bat ears, big ass, tall boy and all those rotten names we called people without ever thinking about how they felt. Times have changed, and the pendulum have swung to the far right. One is afraid to call a spade and spade or a blind person, blind, no we have to say sight challenged, persons with disabilities, hearing impaired, homosexual instead of aunty/or bugger man names people called those of a different sexual orientation without blinking an eyelid.
You know what, it is nice. I like this new sensibility. We must have really hurt our friends with disabilities and those who stood out with their own peculiarities. Instead of appreciating and being sensitive we did the opposite. I remember my cousin with the polio could not get the girls to dance with him when there were dance nights to celebrate New Year’s Eve, Old Year’s Night etc. The only girls who danced with him were his cousins and anyone who felt a little sorry for him, which just goes to show how ignorant we were back then. That same cousin is in the United States and I heard he was cheating on his wife and he eventually left a beautiful dougla girl for some other girl, maybe a white girl this time. I was shocked. That how much things have changed. I think it is great. I work with people with all kinds of disabilities. Come to think of it, who is it out there that do not have a disability? Disability is not only that which we can see. Most of the disabilities I dare say are those that are invisible – depression, dyslexia, ADHD, mental illnesses etc. No matter what it is, we have to be inclusive, accepting of all of God’s people and give everyone their due respect regardless or abilities, race, religion, marital status or anything like that. I was in Guyana recently and I have to say people have come a long way in accepting those who are differently able and there are services to ensure those people are included.