The movie Margarita with a Straw, follows Kalki Koechlin as she maneuvers through the challenges Cerebral Palsy poses in her daily life. It sheds light on how important it is to not be treated differently and to have the support of family. Often, individuals with Cerebral Palsy are stereotyped and because of society’s perception of a disabled person as a “forever child”, their opportunities to get a job, their own homes and even start relationships are often limited. Plus, the lack of infrastructure and aid in India makes it more difficult for people with disabilities to be self-dependent.
Cerebral paralysis, or CP for short, refers to a category of motion disorders triggered by an early brain injury or neurological development disorder that affects regions of the brain and nervous system involved in motor control and coordination. Other signs and disorders beyond motor control and function, such as epilepsy, visual perception or learning disabilities, may also be present in people with CP.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) estimation, 10% of the global population has some form of disability–in India, it is nearly 4% of the population. Cerebral Palsy is the leading cause of chronic disability in children. In India, three children in every thousand are born with CP. However, since India is a developing country, the actual figure may be much higher. About 25 lakh children suffer from Cerebral Palsy. While there are many factors that may make an individual vulnerable to a brain injury in early brain development, it is thought that most causes of cerebral palsy are caused by risk factors associated with the prenatal period.
The degree and severity of the disability varies widely from person to person. Those with CP usually have problems with movement and posture. Some also have some level of intellectual disability, seizures, and may suffer from other medical disorders. People with CP may have impaired vision or hearing, and language, and speech problems.
The most common difficulty that an individual with CP must face is with mobility. Because CP affects balance, posture and the ability to control movement as the disorder progresses, walking with aids or the use of a wheelchair often becomes integral.
Not having adequate disabled-friendly facilities in our country is the major problem. Lack of infrastructure prevents them from making daily tasks like grocery shopping a challenge and can be a roadblock when applying to work in a company that is not designed with easy-access doors, ramps, elevators and restrooms. These facilities are so important in public spaces and guarantee individuals with special needs a comfortable lifestyle.
People with CP are important members of our society, they bring joy to the lives of their friends and families and are passionate about making a positive impact on the world.
Physically or mentally challenged children need more than anything else, a caring concern from society, the readiness of his surroundings to accept him just as any child” says 13-year-old Amal Iqbal, a child with CP who travels across the world motivating children.
If you know a person with CP and you are looking for a way to support them, always remember to ask, but not assume. Treat them the way you would treat anyone else that you have met for the first time and if you think they require assistance, ask how you could support them. Most individuals with CP are self-dependent and might not need your help.
You could support the cause by advocating for disability-friendly public spaces and workplaces. Also, buy products that are made by individuals with different abilities and support companies that employ differently-abled staff.