South Asian Communities Need to Root Out Disability Stigmas

06/07/2016 11:57

Today I'll be getting my nails painted gold and my hands will be decorated with henna to celebrate Eid.

I'm looking forward to wearing a green shalwar kameez from Pakistan with elaborate gold embroidery.

I love the celebrations - all the pakoras, samosas and rice of every colour - and it's a chance to see family and friends.

But while I'm catching up with my mates, I'll also be dodging the disparaging stares as I limp away to the other side of the room.

Born with cerebral palsy, I've always been the odd one out - someone who will never love, never marry, never study, never work, never be anything but a burden.

When I was growing up, I didn't realise that there was anything 'wrong' with me; I thought I was just like all the other children.

But when I became a teenager, people began saying things about my disability and I realised I was different.

'You walk like a drunk,' said one stranger.

'You look like a frog,' said another.

'You waddle like a penguin,' said someone else.

'Well she walks like a sexy penguin so what's your problem,' shouted one of my mates at the offender, who didn't know what to say to that.


These are comments that I regularly get from everyone - black, white - generally anyone who doesn't understand what my disability is.

But most damaging of all were the comments that came from the South Asian community.

I used to get upset and although I didn't want to trouble my mum, she would comfort me and tell me not to listen.

'You don't need to worry about marriage', said one person.

'You don't need to be smart,' said another.

When you grow up in a heavily Pakistani community, the girls are normally married off in their late teens, but because I've got a disability it was always said to me "you'll be fine, you don't need to worry about it because you'll stay at home."

I think there is a stigma attached to disability and other illnesses in the South Asian community because as soon as they see that you've got a visible difference, they immediately judge you and label you as ill.

At school I used to hang out with all the Caucasian people, rather than the Pakistanis, because they wouldn't judge me.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation interviewed 29 Asian young people and their families and the research found that they received more respect within British rather than Asian situations.

They also found that both young people and their parents felt that, despite the negative view of disability in the UK, disability carried a greater sense of stigma and discrimination in South Asian countries.

I've tried explaining how I feel but people don't listen and just tell me that I'm not respecting them.

I want them to realise that having a disability doesn't mean you're a write off.

Yes, it might take me longer to do things like doing up buttons or unscrewing jars, but that doesn't mean that I can't contribute to society and lead a full life.

I work in a supermarket and help hundreds of people with their shopping every day, despite my disability.

One day I do hope to marry but I'm not interested in an arranged marriage.

I've been on a few dates and it didn't work out, so I'm just biding my time till the right person comes along.

Yes I've got a disability, yes I'm different, but I have just as much as a right to be here and exist as much as you, so don't make me feel like I'm not worth something, when I am.

That's why I've teamed up with Fixers, the charity which gives young people a voice, to make a film to get my message out there.

I would say to anyone who has a disability, don't change for anyone; be who you are and be who you want to be.

Don't let your disability shape your life.

Fixers is a charity which gives young people the opportunity to create a media campaign on any issue they feel strongly about.

The charity has helped more than 18,000 youngsters across the UK to campaign on issues as diverse as cyber-bullying, self-harm, suicide or transphobia.

For more information or to make a donation to fund Fixers' projects in your community, visit