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EC Speaker Series urges positive perception for disabled

EC Speaker Series urges positive perception for disabled

Tribune News Network
Doha
In the latest edition of the Qatar Foundation’s Education City Speaker Series, an award-winning photographer, humanitarian and activist who lost three of his limbs in blast in Afghanistan, spoke of the “constant challenge” people with disabilities face to make others realise what they are capable of.
The event, in collaboration with the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) saw Giles Duley, renowned for his work on the human impact of war, talk about his own journey to cope not only with the physical injuries he suffered in 2011, but with the mental toll they took.
In a talk titled ‘Reframing Our View of Disability’, held during the WISH 2020 Virtual Summit, Duley told his story through his own black-and-white photographs – and those taken from him in the moments, weeks and months after he lost both his legs and his arm when he stepped onto an improvised electronic device while patrolling the US regiment in Afghanistan.
He told online audiences at the QF global dialogue platform: “Too often, people with disabilities are shown to be victims, but I rarely find that – what I find instead is resilience, strength, and more often than not, humour.
“I am not a photographer of war. It’s my job to document love. For people with disabilities, our injuries are often the only focus of the story, but the things we should focus on instead are our love stories.
“I realised that my greatest disability is in the eyes of others and when people see me missing my limbs, they make assumptions about what I can and can’t do. And it’s hard, and there are days when it’s overwhelming, because we live in a society that makes it harder for us. But I also believe that people with disabilities can live a full life – and that most importantly, we can love and be loved.”
Duley explained that one of the greatest obstacles people with disabilities face is “the perceptions of others”, saying: “You’d be amazed how many times people ask me if I can be in a relationship – it can be as if people think we’re not able to lead normal lives.
“Everyone fights this in their own way but, for me, it’s about showing what I can do. There are very few photographers with injuries like mine – we are often the subject, not the storyteller. I tell people I’m just an angry man with a camera, who wants to make sure that someone sees a photograph I take and that something positive happens from it. I couldn’t go home and feel I was leaving the people I photograph behind without anything changing.
Speaking about the need for progress in the way people with disabilities are perceived, Duley said: “There is still a long way to go – look at the representation of people with disabilities on television.
“They make up a very small percentage of people on screen and they tend to be portrayed as villains – every James Bond villain, for example, seems to have a facial disfigurement or be missing a limb. It’s actually quite hurtful and we have to stop representing people with disabilities in this way.”
Duley also revealed that his struggle to overcome depression after his injuries was a “greater battle than to deal with losing three limbs,” saying, “When people trivialise mental health and say Take yourself together,’ I can tell you that regaining my mental health was harder than physical injury, but what got me through was to find a purpose, and by dealing with depression, I’ve built up depression.
“People around the world have gone through incredibly difficult things, but they still see more joy than anyone else. Resilience is the gift of life for dealing with suffering.”

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