Many of you might have heard of the term “Utopia”…it is an imaginary place, a world which is a perfect one…And what is a perfect world…where there is complete harmony…But who has seen it…who has ever experienced a Utopia like situation? I think for everyone perfection has a different meaning…So there is also a no exact description of the word Utopia…no such place really exists…we all interpret it differently…

But we can strive towards establishing a society which at least has some features of that “perfect world”...that Utopian society..

For me such a society would be place where there is almost no discrimination on the basis of physical status of a person. Where the able bodied and the not so able bodied are treated equally...Where there are no complexes of any kind…where empathy precedes sympathy…where compassion prevails… For me that is Utopia….

 And I really am optimistic about its getting established. I can see a ray of hope…and that hope comes from our younger generation…the students…whether in schools or colleges. The students of today can, hundred percent, bring about a change and that too a revolutionary one. The age old pedantic view and thought processes can be altered only by them and from there, a totally renewed social system would be established. Then only the real meaning of “inclusion” would come to the forefront. 

Let’s begin from the school life. Small children have many times more capacity to absorb and accept the people and environment around them. There is saying here in India, “Bachche me bhagwaan hota hai” (a child is a replica of God), which tries to convey the meaning that small children, like God, are pure hearted and non discriminatory.

Right from the childhood if appropriate opportunities are made available by the families and care providers, the children with and without disabilities can mix with each other. They would then be encouraged to form friendships, the roots of which can be deepened and flourished over the period of time. Due to lack of maturity and awareness, a non disabled child might question about how a disabled child “moved”, “looked” or behaved”. And it is quite natural. Here the role of the teachers and parents come into existence. Appropriate strategies have to adopted and taught by the teachers, teaching them the ways of dealing with their ‘disabled peers”. The foundations of being together and accepting each other can be laid at this stage. Teachers, staff and parents can be the role models for the non disabled students. Thus there can be initiation of required attitudes and strengthening of positive experiences from this stage onwards.

When the students grow up, all such kinds of interactions would become natural and can be a part of their daily lives. Total integration into academic and non academic situations can thus prove to be the foundation stone of a Utopian society where certain behaviours and physical appearances of disabled students would stop bothering the non disabled students.

Won’t you like to live in such a world? Or does it appear too difficult to take all such steps towards the achievement of this desired goal?

Those who enter university or colleges, whether disabled or non disabled, find themselves in a completely new world. But now they are mature enough to understand each others needs of companionship and togetherness. Making groups or categorizing each other as disabled or non disabled leads to segregation and loss of meaningful interactions.

Disability is not a matter of personal choice. Accidents can happen to anyone anytime. The physically normal students have to be more sensitive towards about their disabled peers. Those with disabilities might feel hesitant or might have low confidence. All this needs the non disabled to come forward and become friends with them rather than being only “friendly” with them.  Being a ‘friend’ or being ‘friendly’ are two different words with different meanings. It is up to us to understand their meanings and move ahead accordingly.

So I call upon the non disabled students to become friends with their physically challenged peers. And mark my words; you won’t be at any loss. Apart from it, never ever think that you are doing some social work or favouring them by extending a helping hand. You would be surprised to notice that some students with disability are better than many, in reading and writing. They can even be sought for help during academic work. Those with disabilities can become your true friends. So just tell me, does the question of disabled accepting the non-disabled arise?

Don’t think that I am preaching something…You don’t need to make some extra efforts…All you need is to make them feel that you are with them, understanding them for what they are, looking at them beyond their disabilities and showing your genuineness in your capacity for friendship. And if you really want to trying doing all this, here are some tips for you:

  • Never ostracize them for their physical status

  • Don’t let anybody else make fun of them

  • Try to find mutuality in your relationship with them

  • Thank them for whatever they do for you

  • Help them if they ask; over enthusiasm to help can spoil the relation

And you will definitely find that friendships between people with and without disabilities usually enrich the lives of both. No one is better or superior to anyone. No one is either equal to other. Every individual is unique and it is our duty to respect that uniqueness. 

By Abha Khetarpal


Abha Khetarpal is principal counselor/founder of Cross the Hurdles. She is also counselor for students with disabilities at Equal Opportunity Cell, University College of Medical Sciences & GTB Hospital, Delhi.