What's Your Possibility? Muskaan Devta

By Shakti Krishnan

Shakti recently got to interview some young disabled people, hoping to learn more about the different voices of disability.

My first year at university was the first time that I had ever felt like an outcast. 

Before then I hadn’t really experienced much discrimination. Within the small confines of my high school, and primary school I only ever had the occasional gripe with ramps being too steep, or not having enough to do during P.E. Issues I felt were small and I could brush off. During my time at school teachers would make an active effort to ensure I could participate in most activities.

However, in a larger environment like university, those little issues were amplified.

Recently, we started a project at Attitude called ‘What’s your Possibility ?’ This was a series of discussions with disabled Kiwi youth about how they see the world around them, and one thing that stood out to me was the difference in experiences for us all. 

Muskan and Red sitting at a table being interviewed by Shakti.

Whereas I had struggled to come to grips with the move to university, 19-year-old Muskaan Devta experienced discrimination as a person with a disability from early in her life.

Muskaan studies psychology at Massey University, is a published author and has presented a TED talk on courage. She also lives with Hemiplegia, a form of paralysis to one side of the body and her mobility is limited. My disability affects my mobility too, but I use a wheelchair to get around. While we both have challenges around mobility and accessibility, the way we interact with the world physically is still different.

After I’d shared my relatively positive childhood experience, I asked Muskaan what it was like for her growing up. It’s fair to say her experience as a child was very different from mine.

Muskaan grew up in Gujarat, India: a very different cultural environment to be in as a disabled person. 

“As a child, I was physically, mentally and spiritually sidelined,” she told me.

For Muskaan, socialising as a child was hard, but she found liberation in taking control of her life as she grew into an adult;

“Now because I’ve discovered myself, I know who I am, and I can define myself.”

“Now because I’ve discovered myself, I know who I am, and I can define myself.”

I had the opposite experience. For me, the smaller communities of my childhood (primary school, disabled sports, etc) had actually sheltered me from a lot of judgement and prejudice Muskaan experienced. Talking to Muskaan allowed me to understand how I come from a place of privilege in that respect.

Despite the challenges Muskaan has faced, she remains optimistic as ever and is uninhibited by the expectations of others. 

Muskan and Red sitting at a table being interviewed by Shakti

Muskaan explained, “I want to get rid of that negative attitude and be like just get out there and do it.”

Chatting with Muskaan I learned that my own perception of disability is limited by the bubble I grew up in. I still have a lot to learn! And the best way to learn is by listening to the experiences of other people, and being courageous enough to share your own challenges. So have a chat with your friendly neighbourhood disabled person and see if you learn something about yourself.

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