‘Communities of Care’ is an initiative by Ummeed, one of India’s premier non-profit organizations providing family-centered care to children with developmental disabilities and their families. As part of this initiative, Ummeed hosted their Mental Health Day Festival from 9th October to 11th October. The festival closed with the panel: Where do I find other disabled people like me?: Media and Disability.
Rising Flame’s founder-executive director Nidhi Goyal was invited as a panelist and Co-Lead Programs Srinidhi Raghavan as a facilitator. Other panelists included lifestyle and fashion blogger Darshana Ramgiri, and Smita V, who works in the intersection of gender, sexuality and technology with a focus on digital rights, holistic digital security, and digital storytelling.
A very enlightening and fun conversation, the panel discussed topics ranging from how the representation of disabled folks affected them in their lives, why digital spaces have been so different from the mainstream media that replicates our systems, and what they would personally to do make changes in media, or what they’ve observed has in fact changed because of the presence of people with disabilities in digital spaces.
Nidhi spoke on the ever present misrepresentation of disabled folks in the media, especially in cinema. On accessibility and online spaces, Nidhi elaborated on points made by other panelists about how even though online spaces are amazing for expressing oneself, those spaces are often as inaccessible as physical spaces like coffee shops where people with disabilities might find it difficult to go to to spend time with friends. Both Nidhi and Srinidhi also referenced the Neglected and Forgotten report when talking about disparity in access to technology for different genders (ie a disabled boy has more likely been given access to technology during the pandemic for academic purposes, than a disabled girl). Lastly, Nidhi emphasised the importance of taking steps to build a more inclusive and loving community by being more intentionally accessible. Nothing about us, without us holds true for any representation, even popular media.