Daniel Williams hears from Mohammed Anas about being blind in Pakistan.
I am Muhammad Anas. I am the youngest of five siblings. I was born blind. I had early education in a Specialist School. At this moment, I am an undergraduate student majoring in English Literature at the University of Sialkot. I am currently studying advanced level English and I am a creative poet/writer.
I faced a lot of problems in my childhood because of society’s attitude towards people with disabilities. But I overcame it. I am a warrior. While I am fighting with the world with on one hand, on the other hand I am supported by my loving and caring parents, siblings and colleagues. I never feel that I am blind, because our bestowed me with such loving and caring parents and siblings, they are my eyes in this world, and because of their love and concern, I never consider myself as a person with a disability; and they never let me feel I have one. They are the reason behind my confidence.
When I was 5 years old, my father, while travelling by train, saw a man who was blind, he was singing songs and attained money from the passengers. It broke my father’s heart. It brought him to tears and promised himself he would do anything and everything possible to give me a bright future. So, he took the first step and sent me to school.
Although I have a very loving family, Pakistan society disheartens me sometimes, for example: I applied for a job, but they haven’t accepted me yet or perhaps will never accept me because of my blindness, although I can do just about everything that any other ordinary person does.
Before I discuss the blind people in Pakistan and other people’s attitudes towards them, I am going to discuss what disability is.
Definition of Disability
What is disability? All humans have some common mental and physical faculties that are given by their creator to enable them to function in a balanced way. It includes from IQ to all physical parts. Where a person lacks any of the faculties and therefore can face difficulties to normally function in the relevant area, it is called disability.
We need two legs to walk normally without any help. Therefore, if someone doesn’t have a leg, they can no longer walk in a normal or traditional way. So, missing a leg is a disability.
We need ears to hear. Therefore, if a person’s ears cannot hear, then this is a disability.
If a person cannot see any and every-thing. Then, this is disability.
We need a certain minimum level of IQ to make proper decision to function logically. Thus, if a person has below average IQ, they cannot function logically. This is a disability.
So, missing any mental or physical faculty necessary to function normally is a disability.
This is the book definition.
My View on Disability
To me, the matter of disability is not a theoretical book item. Rather, being a blind person, I can speak from my first hand personal experience as a matter of fact rather than theory.
As I said before, by definition, missing any mental or physical faculty necessary to function normally is a disability. Therefore, TECHNICALLY, I must be a disabled person. But guess what? From my personal experience, I don’t agree with that technical definition. I do not agree I am disabled at all. Why?
Is rice the only food in the world? No. So, just because you don’t have rice, it doesn’t mean you have to stay hungry.
Okay, you like rice. Fine.
But, even when you don’t have rice, you can and do eat something else to make your stomach full. So, the point is: There are alternatives of everything, if not of absolutely everything, definitely of almost everything.
In today’s world, we have readily available and affordable technologies that work as an alternative of our eyes. Just because I don’t have eyes, does that hinder me from reading or writing? Or determining whether it is a day or night? Absolutely not.
True that I cannot see light, color, or image. But that disability doesn’t prevent me from functioning just like anyone having eyes in term of receiving the fundamental necessities by means of eyes. I can read, write, walk, speak, and do everything just as any other persons having two eyes. Consequently, speaking of functionality and thus virtually, I am not a disabled person at all. That’s why I don’t agree with the technical definition that missing any mental or physical faculty necessary to function normally is a disability.
Where there is a will, there is a way. I overcame the condition of sight loss because of my will. And, because I could do it, I believe anyone can do it.
So, disability is not missing a body part. The real disability is the lack of will.
A person who has all the natural faculties but doesn’t have the will to do anything cannot do anything, and therefore, that person, despite having all faculties, still is a disabled person.
So, unlike the traditional definition of disability, my definition is: The condition of lacking the necessary will to do things is the real disability.”
BLIND PERSONS IN PAKISTAN
Visually impaired people have the same feelings and emotions as others. They have the natural right to marry, but, in Pakistan, nobody is ready to marry a person who is blind. I have seen several times and I have plenty of examples in my country that, where a person who is blind marries, for their partners are disabled too. As I have talked many times about people with visual impairment on several occasions, I ask society: “Is it possible to manage life if both partners are blind? Nobody can answer.
The matter of fact is people have an arbitrary rejection. They think that a blind person would become a financial burden on their spouse. They further believe that the spouse with the visual impairment would become a crutch for the person who is blind in many aspects of life.
In Pakistan, from the standpoint of attitude towards people who are blind, people can be divided into the following three categories:
- Uneducated people: They shower extra sympathy to the people who are blind. Which helps to destroy the confidence in people who are blind, this adds up to almost 70% of the blind population in Pakistan.
- High society: I am sorry to say that the majority of people who are blind are ignored and neglected by people in high society. It seems that they do not take the time to listen to people who are blind. They wish them good luck for their bright future instead of supporting them through various types of opportunities. They do not have any sympathy for the people who are blind. For example, there is a famous psychologist. He was on recently on the radio. He talked about people who are blind people, in the most unacceptable terms. This type of attitude is enough to make a person living with blindness totally frustrated. For those people, I want to say “To know the taste of something, you don’t have to essentially eat it. Sometimes, the smell could be good enough to get a good idea about it.”
- Family and friends: These people are siblings, parents or friends. And, sadly, this category exists almost 5 to 6% in Pakistan. Only these people take interest to listen to the people living with blindness and try to help.
Overall, people have negative attitudes towards people living with blindness in Pakistan. According to my own observations, most of the time people living with a visual impairment have less friends but have much well-wishers. The situation is negative, most of the time people living with blindness are ignored and in general they are rejected by their parents.
Parents feel it’s an extra burden if they have a child who is blind. They do not treat them the same way as they treat their other children, they do not send them to school, they generally do not take an interest in them and are not concerned about their education. They send their other children to the school. But often, they do not take interest, or they are not concerned about the education of their children who are blind. If a person who is blind attains admission to school, he can study up to middle level. After that, he needs to go out of the small towns to enroll, for intermediate and higher education. So, most of the students who are blind are forced to stop their education. The conditions in the school are poor too. The teachers are not aware of the system of education required for students who are blind.
Following the rejection of the parents, the persons with disabilities are ignored in society. This has a severe psychological impact on the them and as a result, then extends out to the society. It’s reciprocal.
It is true that the majority of the people living in uneducated areas have a tendency to view things negatively and have a negative approach towards people who are blind, while the poor fellows living in an uneducated countryside area might have some more issues to deal with than to think about their disabilities. In short, a blind person has a totally different day to live than those who are somewhat perfect.
I would say “A person who is blind never feels his/her disabilities, until you make him realise through your ignorance.” People shower sympathies on people who are blind, instead of appreciating and encouraging them. This starts from childhood. If children are playing a game and a there is a child who is blind there, they ask him to stay away and the same if a person who is blind attends a marriage ceremony, his family members will ask him to sit down and not to get involved in any activities. People will donate or help with a charity instead of giving them a suitable job.
The Government doesn’t reflect much concern either. The government doesn’t even know how many people are living with a visual impairment in Pakistan. The government have a responsibility to provide the people who are blind with opportunities, but, to the contrary, the government believe that it would be an uphill task for a person who is blind fulfil their duties.
There is no justice politically too, in Pakistan there is a huge distance between people with disabilities and political parties. People with disabilities are just expected to cast their votes. So, in this regard, let me say that people with disabilities would not be able to be a leader here.
People need to realize that people who are blind are not disabled, they are just differently able. The confidence level of a person who is blind is damaged because of the people’s ignorant behavior. People’s attitudes force the people who are blind to be hermits, resulting in them being HSP “highly sensitive people”.
A friend of mine, who is blind, was standing on the edge of a road, looking for an opportunity to cross the road, he had a white cane in his hand, signaling his blindness. But no car stopped for him: “majority is authority”. pathetic.
Once, my father was driving. He saw that a person who was blind was standing on the edge of the road. My father stopped in front of him, asked him where he wanted to go, and offered him a ride. The person who was blind replied, “I have walking on foot for 4 years, not once has anyone asked me where I needed to go. So, why are you asking this question?” My father said, “Actually my son is blind too. Therefore, I am able to feel this pain.”
Another example: I was standing outside, A blind person came to me, and asked me for some money, he was not aware I was blind too. Before I gave him money, I asked “Why did you not have an education? Do you not want to live your life as a decent citizen? Do not you want a good life? Do not you want to become a successful person?” He replied, “When the parents, society and government do not let you to become a successful person, none is supposed to be good person.” I became gloomy to hear his painful and meaningful words.
The purpose of giving these two examples is just to make you aware of that the school of thought automatically changes when people ignore them.
In conclusion, I would like to say that love, care, affection and better social attitudes are so important for making people who have a visual impairment or any other disability useful members of the society. I request all people who are blind or living with a disability are taken care of in society. They want to be liked and loved.
It is the time to work WITH blind people NOT for blind people.
Author: Muhammad Anas