My name is Puneet Singh Singhal (he/him) from New Delhi, India. I am a person with dyslexia, dyspraxia and stammering. I see my life as the intersection of poverty, domestic violence, and multiple non-visible disabilities. I am a disability activist advocating for a more inclusive and accessible society for people with different, distinct, visible, and non-visible disabilities. I am the founder of a non-profit called ssstart, working towards normalizing speech and communication disabilities. I am part of organizations like NASA, Diversability, IUCN CEC, HundreED.org and NeuroGifted.
Reclaiming Narratives: Triumphing Over Intersections in Neurodiversity
In the heart of the #WhatWENeed campaign lies a commitment: to raise voices that historically fell between the cracks, unheard and unacknowledged. This campaign isn’t just a movement. It’s a clarion call to the world, signaling a revolution, where narratives of those with psychosocial disabilities become more than just stories – they become agents of change.
As a person diagnosed with dyslexia, dyspraxia, and stammering, my journey has been a tapestry of struggles and resilience. Raised in an environment marred by poverty and domestic violence, the societal barbs of body shaming, ableism, and bullying formed the daily lexicon of my life. But here’s the thing about adversity – it’s a brutal teacher, but it teaches well. It taught me to become an assertive advocate, to fight for a world that’s not just inclusive but celebrates neurodiversity in all its colors.
While being part of GNYPWD, I’ve witnessed firsthand the collective power of young persons with disabilities. At ssstart, I have seen the transformative change that targeted support can bring to individuals grappling with communication disorders. Billion Strong has allowed me to expand my advocacy on a global stage, emphasizing the inherent strength that comes from diversity and unity.
My accolades, like the D-30 recognition and the Rising Star Award from Genius Within CIC, are not just personal achievements. They symbolize the hope and potential of every individual with neurodiverse identities, showing the world that with the right opportunities and support, we can defy societal expectations.
However, the journey is far from rosy. One of the critical barriers is society’s myopic understanding of neurodiversity. The emphasis often lies on the ‘disability’ rather than the ‘ability’. The shared identity of being ‘different’ often becomes a heavy cloak that overshadows individual strengths. Furthermore, systemic barriers, from inaccessible education systems to workplace discriminations, continue to stymie potential.
The Way Forward
Our journey towards an inclusive future is not a sprint but a marathon, requiring enduring efforts on multiple fronts. Here’s a more in-depth look into the transformative steps that can pave the path ahead:
Embrace Neurodiversity in Education:
Tailored Educational Tools: The traditional one-size-fits-all model is not effective for neurodiverse learners. We need customized educational tools that cater to individual learning styles, ensuring that every student has an equitable chance at success.
Specialized Training for Educators: A teacher’s influence is profound. When educators receive training in understanding and supporting neurodiverse students, the classroom transforms into a nurturing space for every child.
Peer Sensitization Programs: Inclusion is a collective effort. Organizing workshops where peers learn about neurodiversity can foster a more understanding and supportive environment.
Adaptive Recruitment Processes: Traditional hiring processes can inadvertently exclude neurodiverse individuals. Companies need to adapt their recruitment strategies to be more inclusive.
Neurodiverse-friendly Workspaces: From flexible working hours to quiet rooms, little changes in the work environment can make a big difference.
Ongoing Training: Regular workshops and training sessions can equip teams with the understanding and tools to support their neurodiverse colleagues better.
Strengthen Community Platforms:
Expansion and Replication: Successful platforms like GNYPWD and ssstart serve as models. Their best practices can be emulated and scaled up, broadening their impact.
Peer Mentorship Programs: There’s immense value in shared experiences. Establishing mentorship programs within these platforms can offer guidance, support, and a sense of belonging to newcomers.
Engage Stakeholders: Collaboration with governmental bodies, NGOs, and the private sector can pool resources, expertise, and influence to drive substantial change.
Awareness Campaigns: While campaigns like #WhatWENeed have initiated conversations, sustained efforts are needed. Multimedia campaigns, leveraging TV, radio, social media, and community events can reach a broader audience.
Collaborative Art Projects: Art transcends barriers. Engaging neurodiverse individuals in art projects – be it music, painting, theatre, or literature – not only serves as therapy but also as a medium to communicate their stories to the world.
Policy Advocacy: Grassroots movements can influence policy decisions. Rallying for policies that support and uplift the neurodiverse community will institutionalize the changes we wish to see.
Our movement isn’t about sympathy; it’s about recognition. Recognition that neurodiverse identities enrich our world. That there’s strength in diversity. It’s high time the world not only understands but truly imbibes this spirit. Every voice, every story, like mine, is a step towards that inclusive world we envision. Our quest for a more inclusive world requires relentless dedication, unwavering resolve, and collective action. Let’s embrace the challenges, cherish the milestones, and push boundaries to build a world where neurodiversity isn’t just accepted but celebrated.