Diagnosed with partial hearing impairment at birth, Vidisha Baliyan, Miss Deaf World 2019, battled odds and reached great heights that inspire and motivate the upcoming generation. She chats up about her journey and her experiences. Excerpts:
Impairment turning to strength:
“My situation has made me stronger. I have been supported by my parents always; who have continuously motivated me. They told me to accept myself in whatever way I am. This took time, I read and learnt about many inspirational personalities who suffer from different kinds of disabilities. I always try to stay positive and spread similar vibes around me. This is how I have turned my hearing impairment into strength.”
Breaking the barriers:
Even in the 21st century, society has not evolved enough to accept people with mild disabilities. Speaking about this perspective, Baliyan mentions: “I belong to a small town where many people never really understood what hearing impairment or an intellectual disability refers to. Taking a hard look at my hearing aid, people used to ask me what is that in my ears. I had to face unnatural stares from people and friends. Many used to avoid me. I think this approach can only be changed through awareness as through it negligence can be tackled.
Baliyan has also won the title of Miss Deaf India 2019 before winning the Miss Deaf World 2019 crown. Mentioning about her memorable journey, she said: “From my very childhood, I tried to do something unique and so I chose to play sports, participate in different shows and many more. For taking part in these shows, I learnt ramp walks, sign language so that I could communicate in my community.
Journey from disabled to differently-abled:
Every individual in our society needs to identify with the uncountable possibilities and capabilities they are born with. For differently-abled people, this endeavour becomes a little tough. Speaking on the journey from disabled to differently-abled, Miss Deaf India 2019 mentioned: “Earlier, I couldn’t accept myself but then gradually I started to see it differently. Whatever I am today, it’s because of my family. When people around me used to avoid me, I stopped blaming myself for being deaf and achieved the goal of being differently-abled from disabled.”
Her tryst with sports:
“I used to play basketball but since it was a group game and I had communication issues because of my impairment, I had to quit. My coach suggested to my grandparents that I should start playing lawn tennis. Since then, from the age of 11, I have been playing tennis. In the normal category, I held 55th rank. Through my coach, I came to know about the Deaflympics. In 2017, I took part in the Deaflympics and won a silver medal. But due to problems in my knees and back, I had to take temporary rest for six months. After a gap of six months, when I returned to the grounds, I still could not manage to play. During this rest period, I developed the idea of participating in Miss Deaf India 2019,” said the ex-Deaflympics player.
Instances of bullying and ragging among friends towards disabled kids are a common affair. Recalling those treacherous instances of bullies, she said: “My parents once decided that I should go to a special school but the ambience there was quite demotivating. They were frightened that I shall not be able to fit into society. During dictation at classes in the school, I faced huge problems. Either I used to copy from people and they demoralised me by continuous taunts or I used to lip read my teachers, which used to be very difficult to follow, especially during a running dictation. Recently, I got to know that a kid with hearing impairment, just like me, is facing similar problems during webinars and people even now tease him/her for being differently-abled. I always guide these children so that they don’t blame themselves and not to judge along societal parameters.”
Issues of mental health are gaining prominence, especially amongst youngsters, as depression and anxiety are leading contributors to it. Sharing her struggle to tackle certain phases of depression, she said: “When doctors told me to quit as I could not play sports anymore, I went into depression. I had to deal with negative thoughts but as I shared them with my parents, they came to my rescue. I watched several motivational videos and they kept me busy even with small household chores. While dealing with depression, it’s important to share your thoughts and feelings with people around you who really care.”
Mantra to success:
Emerging as a star example, she added: “Accept yourself and always focus on your goals. Don’t deliberate much on something that is not in your control.”
Sharing a piece of advice for the differently-abled, she said: “Don’t compare yourself with others, accept your problems and love yourself to the fullest.”