Sometimes life just throws incredible challenges at you and it is not an easy journey fighting such battles. Many give up but many do not stop fighting either. People with disabilities have proven to be the leaders in the fight of ‘not giving up’ in the event past. Despite their challenges, they brace up and take up the challenge and have blossomed into inspiring personalities.
We met Mohammed Shaikh from the city of Vasco in Goa. He decided to overcome his shortcomings and paint his dreams into reality. His story will definitely leave you in awe and is one of hope is despair. Mohammed Shaikh from Vasco did not have an easy childhood. He lost his hearing and right eyesight completely and was born at birth and was born with only partial vision in his left eye. He has faced a lot of difficulties growing up but despite his adversities he wanted to independently fend for himself. At the age of 23, he now independently runs a general store in Birla, Vasco. Mohammad has been running his Income Generation Activity (IGA) from 2018. The store is attached to his home where he lives with his parents. Mohammed’s general store sells basic essentials, household commodities, and vegetables.
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We caught up with Mohammed who communicated with us through ASL with the help of his interpreter and educator at caritas Goa, T Scot Mawithiam Siam. The excerpts of our conversation are below
What inspired you to start your own general store?
Even though I had my disabilities, I always wanted to do something independently and not always be dependent on my parents. I did struggle to bring this dream into reality for quite some time but then in 2018, Caritas Goa and Sense International India helped me set up my general store.
It is really rare to see people with deaf-blindness being their own boss but I just love it. I can open and close my store whenever I feel like, interact and meet new people everyday. And they also guide me everyday to do better.
As an adult with special needs running your own general store, what were the challenges you faced?
I did face a lot of challenges due to my disability. Being a person suffering from deaf-blindness, it was very difficult for me to access information and understand the environment around me. Growing up, moving around in the society was the biggest challenge I faced as many people in Goa aren’t aware of deaf-blindness. And communicating with people who do not know sign language was really difficult.
Being a general store owner, I face major challenges such as the inability to communicate, interact and socialise with customers independently sometimes. I always require my parents to support me. Hence, it was difficult for me to build a relationship with my customers and usually depended on the them to point to the items required and then only I would understand. Getting stocks for my store also became a task as well. But I was very keen to learn and be independent from the beginning. So I made it a point to face all the challenges confidently.
How did your overcome your challenges?
I am very well versed with sign language and use it a lot to communicate with my customers. They are very happy when I greet them in sign language. I have also maintained a very good relationship with my customers which makes it easier to socialize with them. I am also very well versed with money concepts and can handle a small amount of money efficiently. I am slowly learning how to count big money notes and how to calculate exact change. Recently, the members of Caritas have started teaching me the concept of profit and loss. This will really help me become well versed with how to run a business independently.
What are the misconceptions people in Goa have about disability?
There is still a lot of lack of awareness when it comes to deaf-blindness and we are often subjected to unnecessary labels which can affect our morale. One major misconception people have about me is that they feel I cannot communicate and consider me ‘mentally retarded’ as I cannot speak and hear.
This perception of society needs to change. Note everyone is born the same, we all have our differences. Yes, there are people with special abilities who can do any task but that doesn’t mean that people should treat us as we aren’t needed around and assume that we aren’t ‘normal’. We just want the importunity to be included in the society just like everybody else want to get involved in things people do.
How has the support been from the people of your community?
Initially, many customers couldn’t understand my disability. But in recent times, my entire area has understood my condition and the people have put an effort to help me out in my business by making purchases from me. My parents were also very happy with this wonderful gesture from the people of my community people, to understand their child’s situation and helping him out in his business. Instead of pointing to objects, the customers now show the pictures of the objects that they need and I immediately understand what is required.
Who do you owe your success to?
All the credit to my success goes to my parents, my neighbours and well-wishers. They always been supportive, caring, understanding, and always motivate me to do better and not give up.
According to you, what can the government do to help people with disabilities further?
Accessibility to schemes and opportunities still lack in Goa. Thought there are many schemes introduced by the social welfare department that many people with disabilities like myself have benefitted from, the government can still work on making it more accessible. Transport and building facilities should be made accessible to people like me. There should also be inclusivity for people with special needs in governmental and non-governmental organisations by creating employment
What are your future plans with business?
I want to grow my business by setting up a bigger shop which would include a wheat mill as well as a stationery and printing shop.
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