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D.Tsolmon: A society labeling us ‘disabled’ is disabled

Trans. by B.DULGUUN

Brilliant Club organized the first “Beauty on Wheelchair” Contest in Mongolia on December 3, to celebrate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

In total, fifteen ladies participated in the contest and D.Tsolmon became the winner. Below is an interview with D.Tsolmon.

 Can you introduce yourself to our readers?

 I’m a person with disabilities who’s been on the wheelchair since 2005 because of a spinal cord tumor. Doctors couldn’t diagnose why I got the tumor. Currently, I’m living with my husband and son. I got introduced to my husband while visiting my friend, who is my neighbor.

 Organizers of the “Beauty on Wheelchair” Contest announced that the winner would be awarded with an opportunity to travel to Italy. When will you be departing?

 It seems that there is a health resort for people with disabilities in Italy. I will be travelling to Italy for 18 days next year in July. Besides going on a vacation, I will study the services for people with disabilities and outline a comparative assessment with Mongolia’s services. I will also be filming the whole trip.

 Previously, you mentioned that you were getting your wheelchair repaired. In Mongolia, how many places provide these types of services?

 Thanks to G.Dashnyam from Nickel Ganbaa LLC, who first began producing wheelchairs in Mongolia, it’s now possible to order custom-made wheelchairs and get broken ones fixed. I prefer light wheelchairs that enable you to lean backwards without assistance as I’m interested in wheelchair dance sport.

Welfare organizations mainly provides massive wheelchairs from China that aren’t suited for users. Massive wheelchairs don’t fit in the trunks of cars and is difficult to mobilize. Unsuitable wheelchairs are dangerous as it may bend or pierce the backbone.

 A peaceful demonstration, with a slogan to turn public transportation accessible to the public, was organized by people with disabilities last summer. How often do you travel by bus?

 I’m a regular passenger of public transportation. Since bus drivers and conductors of bus lines near my home recognize me, they understand my situation and help me out. New bus drivers, on the other hand, leave me behind. Wheelchairs can’t aboard buses with handrails in between the door so there are times when I have to wait for a long time for appropriate buses.

 Is there anyone with disabilities who gives you strength, inspire and motivate you?

I was 15 years old and I was walking down a street when a driver gave his name card and invited me to come to a New Year party of an NGO that supports people with disabilities. Soon after, the World Vision Mongolia invited me to an event and asked me to recite a poem. Two men in wheelchairs were present at the event and one of them was the driver I met before. When I attended the New Year party he invited me to attend, people in wheelchairs dressed in gorgeous dresses and suits welcomed me. I had never seen so many people in wheelchairs and used to think that I was the only one. I didn’t think disable people would dress up so nicely and hadn’t put much effort into my outfit. Although I was proud and happy to see them, I was embarrassed and hid myself near corners.

I was able to learn to live on my own by contacting Tugeemel Khugjil NGO.

 When were you most proud of yourself?

I was the most happiest and prideful when I gave birth to my son. Giving birth almost impossible for a person paralyzed down from the armpit. My nerves from the waist are very weak and welfare organizations determined that I lost 90 percent of my labor capacity. Doctors at the Second Maternity Hospital approved my request to give birth on my own and I didn’t suffer as much while delivering my baby. I’m grateful to Dr.Ariungerel who was the doctor in charge. I heard that it was the first time a person paralyzed from the waist gave birth at the Second Maternity Hospital.

 Have you ever been bullied because of your disabilities?

There isn’t a single bad person in this world. People distance themselves and prevaricate from helping people with disabilities because they don’t have enough understanding about us and don’t have anyone with disabilities around them. They’ll feel pressured if a person on a wheelchair suddenly appears on the streets and asks for help. Mongolians have good hearts. Some taxi drivers refuse to take fees and instead, wish me the best of luck and encourage me to fight for my dreams. Few people try to take advantage of us. There were drivers who thought people with disabilities were stupid and tried to extort more money. Once, a man offered to help in an apartment staircase but pushed me down and stole my wallet.

 How do you want to be defined by others?

Just like people wear shoes, a wheelchair is “clothing” that helps me move around. We’re humans, the same as others. In the current society, we can only be labeled as people with disabilities. The society that labels us like this is disabled itself. For instance, a young man from another country didn’t feel that he was disabled and didn’t have any issues with being unable to walk. Just after he landed in Mongolia, he became aware that he was actually a person with disabilities. Other countries have roads and wheelchair ramps which enable people on wheelchairs to travel freely without any assistance from others. I heard that a person who lost all four limbs and have muscle weakness teaches at a Japanese university.

In the Mongolian society, people with disabilities are treated as if we don’t need to live actively, have to stay at home without causing problems for others, and take the money the state offers and do something with our lives if we’ve lost more than 70 percent of our labor capacity. Benefit funds are very important to people with disabilities who can’t leave the house because of inadequate road railings, staircase systems, and cold stares and attitudes of some people. A man who can’t control his whole body is making his living expenses by teaching in Japan. Why can’t we do the same? Approximately 16,000 people with disabilities live in Mongolia. If we say that 6,000 of them are unable to work, the remaining 10,000 people can work and invest so much to the society. I believe that even society will see us from a different perspective if we [people with disabilities] live with ambition, motivation and stop making excuses because of our disabilities. Problems for people with disabilities will no longer be a problem if, for example, concrete road ends for pedestrians are lowered.

 Do you feel upset about the lack of consideration for the disabled in infrastructure and buildings?

There are cases when people on wheelchairs have been hit by cars because they used roads instead of pedestrian paths because they are too high. It’s judged as the fault of the person on wheelchair in court because they were traveling on roads. I’ve also been almost hit by a car. Most people don’t understand our situation and scolds us to use the pedestrian roads.

 What are you currently studying at university?

I was a freshman at Chinggis-Sosei International Relations School (CSIRS), one of the branch schools of Ikh Zasag International University, before I became pregnant. I chose to enter this school because I believe foreign language is an inseparable link to my dreams and an international gateway.

The “Beauty on Wheelchair” Contest has been organized for the very first time in Mongolia, but it’s developed into an international contest in foreign countries. I want to become a bridge for Mongolian young people on wheelchairs and become a passage to their participation in international competitions. I researched about wheelchair dance sport and found that this type of freestyle dancing hasn’t been developed.

 Is it true you’ve implemented a project for students on wheelchairs?

It’s very challenging to ask a stranger to help them aboard a bus, go into a school, or take them up the stairs. With my friend, I researched about whether it’s possible for people with disabilities to study and get educated with assistance from volunteers and tested it on myself. I administrated over twenty people and received their help during times when they were free. Simply, one of them would help me alight buses in the morning, another person would come and help me get to different classes during breaks, and a different student would help me get back home. Sometime, I would treat volunteers to lunch and tried my best to reward them as much as I could. I talked with the school administrators and got them to increase community works score of volunteers.

Tugeemel Khugjil NGO organized training about how to function wheelchairs for people who helped me. I had found an organization that would support my project and develop it into a large project for many children but I had to delay this work because I had a baby.

I’m planning to submit my project to the government and have it implemented at a broader scale. I also want schools to start an online curriculum for students with disabilities. It would be wonderful and more convenient if professional lessons are taught through the internet and students with disabilities would go to schools once or twice a week, only when it’s necessary. Attending schools every day is challenging for me as I can’t catch up to the speed of healthy children, specifically, when going from classroom  to classroom and taking bathroom breaks.

 

Source: http://www.mglnews.mn/content/55721.htm

 

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=12860

Posted by on Dec 17 2014. Filed under Prime Interview. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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