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South Asia and Disability Studies

Redefining Boundaries and Extending Horizons


Shridevi Rao and Maya Kalyanpur

Incorporating scholarship that addresses the social, economic, cultural, and historical facets of the experience of disability in South Asia, this book presents the reader with a comprehensive, cogent, and nuanced view of the constructions of disability in this region. In doing so, it focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities and their families, analyzing such disabling barriers as poverty, caste, and other inequities that limit their access to education, employment, equity, and empowerment. It addresses the interpretations of disability within different South Asian contexts including policy, family, educational systems, films, and literary narratives. Situated in an interdisciplinary perspective that spans areas such as cultural studies, law, disability studies in education, sociology, and historiography, South Asia and Disability Studies presents a rich and complex understanding of the disability experience in South Asia. The organization of topics parallels the discourse in areas within disability studies such as identity construction, language, historical constructions of disability, and cultural representations of disability.
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Chapter 10: “Just a Member of the Neighborhood”: Bengali Mothers’ Efforts to Facilitate Inclusion for Their Children with Disabilities within Local Communities


It is late afternoon. The sun is still shining, its fierceness gently muted by the slightly cool breeze. The winding roads in the interior of Behala in Kolkata get increasingly busy. A number of women walk along the sides of a road with their young children, their paper-crisp starched cotton saris rustling as they hurry by. A loud jingle causes the pedestrians to move to the barely visible pavement as a rickshaw man runs past. The narrow road ends at a fork. The left fork leads to a dusty, pebble-strewn street that peters off to a dead end. On either side of this street are several buildings closely clustered. Wedged between two buildings is the only visible open space: the playground. It is a small rectangular patch of land with no swings or slides. The incessant and relentless hum of the mosquitoes does little to quell the enthusiastic chatter of the children assembled here. A tall boy, around the age of 8, holds the hands of a thin 6-year-old girl in the center of the playground as the group plays a team game. The girl wears a pretty red and blue patterned dress. A young woman of medium height, in her late 20s, with dark black hair, stands on the side, occasionally giving instructions. She wears a soft, cream-colored cotton sari with a bottle-green border. This is Mrs. Som, and the girl in the red and blue dress is her daughter Sharmi, who has been diagnosed with microcephaly. During the...

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