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Sexuality and Disability India

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When you can’t hear the sounds of traffic

Sunday the 4th of December 2016 was the first day of our My Access workshops on safety and accessibility in public spaces for disabled and non-disabled women. The workshop was held at V-Shesh centre in Chembur, Mumbai in partnership with V-Shesh which brought in fourteen young women with hearing impairments and the Blue Ribbon Movement which was represented by fourteen non-disabled volunteers. We also had four sign language interpreters present, to ensure smooth communication.

To spark off conversations, participants were divided into groups and asked to discuss the people with whom they shared details of their romantic lives. Moving on from this, our director, Nidhi Goyal then got into the heart of the matter and spoke about the chief issues regarding women’s access to public spaces. Common issues that link many women together were brought up such as sexual harassment and societal control. The general consensus that emerged was that go through similar adversities by virtue of being women, regardless of being disabled or not. And the questions and discussion that followed revolved around the factors that made women feel safe and unsafe in public spaces. The issue of invisible disability also came up in talking about travel, when participants mentioned they were judged for taking the disabled compartment in local trains. Others said, that the fact that disabled compartments didn’t have separate men’s and women’s sections, made them feel unsafe.

We then stepped out for a short walk, pairing one disabled participant with a non-disabled one. There were several obstacles to be navigated, including bad roads, loud traffic and large crowds, during the walk. A major issue for the hearing impaired is being unable to hear the sounds of the traffic, which poses a huge risk for travelling, even when with someone. However, tackling disability to confidence is important. “Informing people about what is bothering you is very crucial when you feel unsafe,” said a participant. The workshop ended on a positive note, with all the participants bonding over their learning and experiences.