World of PWD

Amal Chatterjee
11 min readFeb 13, 2019


Source : Google photo of Stephen Hawking who had severe disability

Synopsis : Many people are unfortunate to be born with disability while others get it in wars or accidents. Some like the famous scientist Stephen Hawking developed the disease that made his life so difficult and there are those who develop post traumatic stress disorder( PTSD) that makes it difficult for them to function normally. This blog looks at many forms of disability people suffer and ways they try to overcome them to be useful.

PWD or the person with disability is a common term for those unfortunate people who may have some type of disability through no fault of their own and number in millions. Some suffer from birth defects while others suffer from war and violence related disabilities that may range from war related trauma called PTSD ( post traumatic stress disorder) or amputation of limbs.

For many such victims, life becomes bleak and hopeless because they see no future for them in a society that is ill suited to them and provides very limited opportunities to them in terms of gainful employment depending on their type of disability. So I was very impressed by a blind person working as a guide to tourists at the grave of Emperor Aurangjeb in Aurangabad in India one day.

Source : Google photo of the blind tourist guide at the grave site of Aurangjeb.

He was a living encyclopedia on the history of Mughals and about the life of the king that he could narrate in several languages flawlessly to the visitors and told them many details about Aurangjeb that people did not know about so they were surprised just as we were and gave him some money. He earned a meager living this way but kept his dignity and did not beg for money.

Source : Google photo of a blind singer in Angkor Wat, Siem Reap in Cambodia

If you visit the Angkor Wat in Siem Reap in Cambodia, you will see the people with disability sitting by the roadside and selling tourist paraphernalia or just singing like village bards the story of Angkor so they earn a little this way. They were injured in the long war between the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese troops that finally overcame the Khmer army but these poor people paid a high price for it . Some are blind and others have lost their limbs in mines and other explosions but they try to earn a living with their dignity intact.

The most tragic are people who are born with some kind of physical defect that makes them unable to live a normal life and then there are those who were born healthy yet suffered some type of disability through no fault of theirs . I will mention a case here of a child who was born normal at a hospital in India where he was given vaccinations that are given to children born there as a matter of routine.

What was not routine was what happend to that child later. The vaccine given to him perhaps carelessly through unclean needles made his toe swell up and became black with painful complications. Later as he grew up , his leg started to shrivel as if he had polio and became shorter than the other leg so he could not walk normally. The parents spent a fortune on his knee surgery a few times but nothing helped so he has become a frustrated and angry man who is in his forties and hobbles painfully on crutches.

He now spends his life in despair because his disability and anger made him quit his studies so he did not get proper education that could have given him a chance to earn a living somehow. In India such people if qualified are given government jobs where mental rather than physical work is required so you can see many computer or accounting related jobs reserved for them.

In other countries you will see them getting around in three wheeler motor scooters paid for by some charities or the government that gives them hope and mobility. This simple act of easier mobility makes a great impact on them so they are encouraged to go to school and later college which gives them the opportunities for employment later.

Source : Google photo of artificial limb made in Jaipur, India

I know a charitable institution in Jaipur, India where any disabled person who has lost a leg due to accident or other reasons like that boy I mentioned earlier can get a free custom made leg just in a few days. It is called BMVSS ( Bhagwan Mahaveer Vikalang Sahayta Samiti) NGO that offers free prosthetics they manufacture in their workshop.

They design a specific leg for the person after careful measurements and moulds taken of his leg and then make an appropriate plastic leg for him that fits nicely all free of charge. I know one person with an artificial left leg who rides his scooter deftly , has some education and employment.

I know another person in America who lost his leg due to an accident in Laos has an artificial leg fitted to him that allows him not only to ride his scooter but can put any dancer to shame on a dance floor. The western prosthetic use high quality metal or carbon fiber legs that have joints and feet that function almost like a real leg. If you see the legs of Oscar Pistorius, you will see how he could run so fast on his artificial leg.

Source : Google photo of Oscar Pistorius running on his artificial legs.

But there are other types of disability some people suffer from that may be due to injuries suffered in the head or other parts that makes them unable to function as a normal person so some people so disabled get very frustrated with their life and take extreme measures meaning they take their own life. I wrote about a young man who suffered permanent paralysis to his lower body due to a playful wrestling with some one and shot himself because he could not accept a wheel chair life.

Source : Google photo of Claus Von Stauffenberg

When it comes to extreme disability , a name pops up in my mind of a person who was a historical figure in Germany. We have all heard of him as Claus Von Stauffenberg who lost his left eye, his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand in the war in Tunisia . He jokingly remarked to friends never to have really known what to do with so many fingers when he still had all of them. For his injuries, Stauffenberg was awarded the Wound Badge in Gold on 14 April and for his courage the German Cross in Gold on 8 May of 1942 by Adolf Hitler.

He received his severe wounds in the battle in Tunisia but continued to live his life in pain and suffering. He did not agree with Hitler and his conduct in the war so he tried to assassinate him but failed. For this he was executed by a firing squad. Now a boulevard in Berlin bears his name because people have not forgotten his bravery.

Source : Google photo of blind masseur in Japan

You will often find the blind people who become great masseurs and earn a good living this way in Japan,Taiwan and other countries where such jobs are reserved for them. They perform a service and are different from those female masseurs who pretend a robust Thai massage and twist your arms and legs until you cry uncle. They also offer extra services for a fee so you can guess what services they offer in Pattaya or Patpong street of Bangkok. I will not get into the details here.

So there are many ways a disabled person can earn a living keeping his or her dignity intact. I knew a student in our college in California who was blind so we helped him cross the roads when we saw him although he got around quite well using his probing stick. I think he used tape recorders to record his classroom lessons and probably used braille books as well.

The Braille is a marvelous invention by Louis Braille in 1824 in France. He was blind and invented system that is still being used as such .

Source : Google photo of Louis Braille ,inventor of Braille

Now in many countries you will find numbers in elevators in Braille to make it easier for the blind person to use them and have wheel chair ramps for the disabled. There are parking spaces for the disabled in the parking lots and there are reserved seats for them in subways and trains but more needs to be done to help them.

Source : Google photo of Abbe Charles Michel de l”Epee

Others have invented the sign language that disabled people use to communicate with each other that was invented also in France. Abbe Charles Michel de L’Epee is a common answer people give when they are asked, “Who invented sign language?” L’Epee established the first free public school for the deaf in Paris in 1771. L’Epee educated the deaf using a standard sign language that he created. So, people obviously thought he invented sign language since this was the first sign language that was used widely.

However, they fail to look at the fact that children came from all over the country to go to L’Epee’s school (some even from Martha’s Vineyard). The deaf children had been signing at home (because of lack of other communication), and brought these signs with them. L’Epee learned all of these different home-made signs from the children and created his standard sign language based off of them. Just like Bonet, L’Epee created a system, but not the first language. L’Epee’s standard sign language eventually became French Sign Language and was widely used in Europe.

The advance of technology to help the disabled:

Now we hear of hearing aids that are very sensitive and can be planted inside the ear canal of a deaf person so that he can hear sounds but they are expensive for the poor who can only communicate with other deaf mute through the sign language if they are not visually impaired.

The classic disabled person who was very famous for his original thinking was Stephen Hawking who suffered numerous disabilities,who was wheelchair bound, could not talk or use his limbs normally. But he was a genius and could write using computers.

Source : Google photo of Stephen Hawking who became a famous scientist

So there are advances in technology to help the disabled but they come at a price that many poor disabled persons cannot afford so where do they go for help? I mentioned many NGOs who offer some help like the one in Jaipur but it helps a limited number of people. In many countries the government gives some help in subsidizing the cost of a motorized wheel chair or a simple wheel chair that some one has to push.

In the case of the young man who lost the use of his legs mentioned early in the blog could use a wheel chair that he could propel himself because his arms were strong but no one bought him one so he still hobbles around in crutches.

Now I hear of surgical transplant of microchips in the retina of a blind person that can simulate and concentrate light on the light receptor cells at the back of the eye and I hear that it can make a blind person see something although it is not clear how much he can see. Such technology is also very expensive and in the early stages of development but there is no guarantee of success. The common eye problems like cataract etc. can be surgically helped at a low cost so many partially blind people get help this way.

The post traumatic stress disorder known as PTSD is a serious disability that affects numerous soldiers who return home after serious battle field injuries or trauma from which they fail to recover unless they receive serious medical and psychiatric help from the professionals subsidized by the government.

So the help available to physically, mentally and psychologically disabled people varies from country to country and the available resources. It is the poor who suffer the most because they entirely depend on charity that some NGOs provide to a few .

This blog is incomplete unless I mention the case of Nick Vujicic who is an Australian born without arms or legs but has become an inspirational speaker invited to world forums from Davos to the Philippines where he speaks about his disabilities that did not hold him back from anything in life. He went to college and has married , has four children and lives now in the United States where he inspires others through his speeches on how to handle disabilities successfully. He is a writer, speaker, swimmer and inspires millions through his motivational speeches. Just watch his videos below .

Source : U tube video of Nick Vujicic and his inspirational talk

Source :U tube video on Nick Vujicic who is truly amazing

If you know someone who has some form of disability, try to help him anyway you can because such people with a little help can become useful in their life and learn to earn a living like those blind masseurs in Japan and Taiwan. If you are born healthy and live a healthy life then you must count your blessings because millions are not so fortunate and suffer due to no fault of their own.

It always starts at home where your own parents may become disabled due to old age so they should be looked after and treated like kings and queens. If you have brothers and sisters who are unfortunate enough to be disabled, then it becomes your duty to look after them and give them all the help they need. What disabled people need most is compassion and a kind heart that seems to be in short supply these days so share your blessings with those who will benefit from it.

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