So at CareTalk! …

CareTalk! Workshop facilitated by Caregivers Link at ‘ONE – The Confluence’, December 4, 2013, Pune.

To mark World Disability Day (observed on 3rd December),  EKansh Trust, Pune, an organization focusing on inclusion and ability, invited Caregivers Link to facilitate a session at ‘ONE- The Confluence’, an event held across November 3rd and 4th on various facets of disability, sensitization and care.

Caregivers Link undertook a short workshop,  focusing on communication between family members and others in the world of care. Since time was a constraint, the goal of the workshop was to enable participants a quick glimpse into thoughts, feelings and attitudes underlying interactions with care-receivers or persons with disabilities.

After a brief introduction to Caregivers Link, the participants numbering approximately 45 persons, were divided into three groups and asked to share, anonymously in writing, an instance of neglect or offensiveness towards a person with an illness or a disability that they may have experienced or witnessed. The responses from each group were collected and bagged, and then these bags were passed on to the next group. Now each person in each group was asked to dip into the bag, pick out a response (written by someone else in another group) and present their understanding of it – as a random case in communication and attitudes in the world of care.

A volunteer from each group was asked to summarize the responses to these cases and share with the audience at large.

The audience comprised of members of care families, students (from management schools, school for individuals who are hearing impaired and from Pune-based colleges), special educators and development professionals. It was a group with mixed experiences. Many among them, the young students who had hearing impairments for example, had received care; the special educators had given care and there were others who did not have direct experience of care – it was an unfamiliar subject to them.

The words and feelings that emerged most strongly from the responses were telling, all of them familiar to many in the care world:

Criticism
Guilt
Neglect
Loneliness
Fear
Insult
Offence
Anger
Sadness
Indifference

A few of the instances shared were:

a)    About a friend refusing to take an ill friend to the hospital because she did not want to sacrifice her television hour.

b)    A teacher feeling upset because a child she had recommended, who was suitable in every way for a mainstream school education, was being refused admission because he was not considered `normal’.

c)    A family including a person with cerebral palsy, who drooled while eating, being asked by restaurant staff to leave because he made others uncomfortable.

d)    A person on a wheelchair feeling invisible on the street – only because nobody looked at him or cared to offer help.

Prior to this session, a speaker had asked the audience what they usually feel when they see a disabled person. A young man had responded by saying although they tried to be politically correct and do the right thing, they usually felt pity and did not think of the person as an equal. This response was incorporated into the plenary discussion analyzing care related communication and attitudes to show that often people feel or observe responses that are neither politically correct nor correct. The purpose was to create a deeper sense of understanding and identification of individual responses and feelings to differences and disability.

The session opened up a short discussion on interacting with a person who has a disability.  A young student asked whether the passivity/indifference noticed on the street was because people did not know how to offer help? She cited her own experience, when she has been hesitant to offer support to a person on the street not knowing how to do so. A special educator responded to her by suggesting in such a situation it was best to be guided by the person themselves and ask them if and how she could help.

The take home for participants was a sense of awareness of personal responses, attitudes and ways of communication that could lead to positive interactions and engagement when encountering a care situation or a person with a disability.

We acknowledge with happy thanks the central role EKansh Trust played in enabling this platform and we look forward to collaborating with them on future projects and events. We thank all participants for their time, patience, and energetic engagement,  that made the workshop possible. And as a last word, we would like to identify and share our own learning while facilitating this workshop – a mixed group of participants comprising persons with differing abilities requires teams, tools and strategies that can effectively engage everyone, breaking down the barriers and bridging the gaps.
(Thank you to EKansh Trust for the photographs of the event.)

(Devashri Mukherjee)