I would like to share the story of life of a PWS I met a few months back and one of incidents of my life .Let us call my PWS friend Mayank(not his real name).
Mayank had been a reasonably good student during his school days. He belongs to a poor peasant family. He got admission in a Government Polytechnic College for Diploma in Engineering.
His teachers at the college always made fun of him and discouraged him due to his stammer. They used to tell him that he wont be able to complete his course with so severe stammer. Gradually he lost faith and self-confidence and failed in the annual exam.He decided to discontinue his Diploma course.
He left the college and went to his village near Shimla. Now he has taken admission in ITI (Industrial Training Institute )college at Shimla. He also brings and sells home-grown vegetables at Shimla on Sundays. In addition he has joined as intern salesman and is assigned to another sales-person for training. Life is pretty hard for him but he is going on.
The point is- what happens when a PWS comes from a poor family specially in a developing country like India. S/he wont have access to any speech-therapists, no access to various techniques. And s/he also has to face the bullying of other people.
This shows lack of knowledge about stammering among many educated people like college teachers. It also shows lack of empathy for a fellow human being .
I would like to relate an incident from my own life in this context.
I had passed out from engineering college and had started preparing for various PSU jobs. I got interview call from one of the so called "NAVRATNA" PSUs ( which deals in research and development activities) after I cleared the written exam. I had not come across TISA by then and knew nothing about speech techniques.I was desperately in need of a job as almost a year had passed after college and I could'nt find a job by then.
The interview board had 3 people in it. In my excitement and desperation I started answering questions and faced a very severe block. The more I tried to speak , the facial contortions became more apparent. I noticed that the suppressed smiles of the interviewers slowly transformed into full fledged laughter. They abruptly ended the interview just after HR questions and didn't even touch the technical questions.I knew then and there that I wont be selected.
Was the behavior of the teachers in Mayank's college or the interviewers in my case due to prejudiced opinions about PWSs? Did cinema which generally portrays PWS in poor light had a role in formation of their biased opinions? Or does society in general plays the role of a bully and doesnt wish PWS to take up anything more than petty jobs for a living?
Small children may make fun of PWS because they may perceive stammering as funny. But is it justified for well educated people of our society like college teachers and high govt. officers?
The overall picture is not so bleak and many people look upon any kind of disability with empathy and thereby help the person gain in self-confidence.We just need to do our bit to keep spreading the awareness.