Ray of Hope for the Disabled

While reading through Reader’s Digest, I came across story of a quadriplegic (a person who has both arms and legs paralysed) Craig Cook. Though I thought it a shame that Craig’s fiance left him after he was paralysed in a car accident where his friend was driving, it was heartening to know that he could find a happy companion in Minnie, a capuchin monkey.

As I read along I realised that there are two-year training programs for these capuchin monkeys so that they can be companions to people like Craig in need. Helping Hands is the organisation that trains these capuchins and provides them as companions to the disabled. Yes, you read it companions and not pet. Here are few excerpts from this article:

When Cook applied to Helping Hands in 2001, it was illegal to have an exotic animal in a home in California. The only helper animals allowed were dogs for the visually impaired. Helping Hands went to work to have the laws changed for Cook, and in 2004, he became the first person in the state to receive a service monkey.

ADA (American Disabilities Act) now allows capuchins to accompany their companions virtually everywhere including restaurants.

More about Helping Hands

Helping Hands began in 1979 as an experimental project at Tufts University, combining rehabilitation engineering, occupational therapy and behavioral psychology. Initially, the monkeys were rescued from animal labs. Today, the program has its own breeding colony at Southwick’s Zoo in Mendon, Massachusetts. For their first five years, the capuchins live with nondisabled foster families so they can enjoy a childhood complete with toys and tummy kisses, and interact socially with humans and household pets. In the foster homes and at Monkey College, they learn that large white dots mean “Don’t touch.” And round stickers are placed in doorways or on stoves to keep the monkeys away. “We don’t want people to lose their heirloom china just because they have a monkey helper,” says Helping Hands cofounder Judi Zazula.

Watch this NBC clip about Helping Hands, you would be surprised at the dexterity of capuchins.


You can read the entire Reader’s Digest article here. It is quire heartening.

Training for Disabled Women in India

In the last post, I was lamenting about employment for the disabled. So, I came across a beauty training institute called Shamute opened by Shanaaz Hussain for speech and hearing impaired. I was delighted about reading about such vocational training programs.

You can read more about it here and here.

Disability in movies

Movies play a big part in creating awareness. Mahendra has written about three Indian movies that deal with disability in his post. Out of the three, I have watched only Sparsh, which I liked immensely. Other are on my to-watch list. What do you have to say about them?

Discussion: Can you think of an movie/sitcom where disabled have been insensitively portrayed? Feel feel to name those movies that deal with various aspects of disability.

I will soon post first hand experience of a reader about his work around the disabled.

36 Responses to “Ray of Hope for the Disabled”

  1. 1 dinu June 30, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    This is interesting πŸ™‚ or rather touching, I would say .. going thru video now..
    and movies.. sorry.. I am not a movie fan actually …. will let u know if I find one .

  2. 2 Shefaly June 30, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Poonam: Practically all Indian films portray mental disabilities and mental health issues as a joke or a burden. So naming individual names would be a long, time-consuming task.

    As for “Though I thought it a shame that Craig’s fiance left him after he was paralysed..”, I think until we are in a situation, where we have to support someone whose life is totally altered even from that person’s own point of view, we are in no position to judge someone else. Even when people try, things do not always work out, because the person, who has physically changed, does not view the relationship the same way either. A relationship is the tango that definitely needs two engaged people.

    I was hoping to find you a link to the story of an American soldier who got back from Iraq with his face and body burnt badly. His fiance married him and was much lauded for it. But day to day, life turned out much harder – which it normally is when all visitors go home. They divorced a few months in.

    I would say this man’s fiance was courageous in being able to stand up and say ‘I cannot do this’ thus admitting to her frailty even as she knew she will be judged by many.

  3. 3 dinu June 30, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    I agree with shefaly

    // Practically all Indian films portray mental disabilities and mental health issues as a joke or a burden //

  4. 4 leo June 30, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    yeah right….

    Even animals have curtsy on human beings….

  5. 5 Reema June 30, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    I second Shefaly’s view on the fiancee thing.
    Out of the three movies I have watched Khamoshi and its a beautiful movie. It makes me cry each time I watch on the scene when they lose their kid. I’m surprised u havent seen it. its an old movie. In most of our movies mad people are a topic of fun and all electric shocks are supposed to be humorous..Thats really bad.

  6. 6 Reema June 30, 2008 at 7:14 pm

    Please update ur blog roll with my new url. My name is still linked iwth the old one πŸ™‚

  7. 7 arvind June 30, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    wow..isnt that cool… i saw once in repley’s show on how a dog helps a blind women in almost every work..was stunned..i wonder how they train these things..
    there is a movie in tamil DANCER ..in that movie the hero is a guy with just one leg …yes u heard me right..and as the movie title suggests the guy dances ..and beleive me he is dancer by profession in real life too ..

  8. 8 Manpreet June 30, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Hopped here from Philip’s. You have a great blog. Went through a couple of posts yet, but I am adding you on my igoogle and will come back for more.
    This post has just one thing coming to my mind- “Thank God for Animals”

  9. 9 Nita June 30, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    There are several movies I can think of which have portrayed disabilities in a sensitive manner. Shwas and Koshish, which Mahendra mentioned come to mind immediately. So does another one – Eshwar in which Anil Kapoor plays a mentally disabled man. That movie was fantastic. I loved it.

  10. 10 RJ July 1, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Hey this was knowledge for me. I never knew such things happened. its super cool and kudos to minnie and others like minnie πŸ™‚

    I liked Taare Zameen Par. As far as the insensitive part goes there are a many which shows disabilities in a bad way. Calling a obese person fat could also be considered insensitive. So its difficult to pin-point those movies.

    Excellent post – like always!

  11. 11 praneshachar July 1, 2008 at 4:46 am

    nice post it is very interesting and educative too for those who are keen on do something for disabled. certainly in our country things can not happen the way it happened it US
    It is amazing the way the issue was taken up and ultimately law got changed to allow what cook wanted great work by Helping Hands.
    let more helping hands emerge in our own country where need is really more and wanted
    once again kudos to you poonam fro the committment

  12. 12 Ottayan July 1, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Disabled people are demanding, particularly those who have become disabled abruptly. They tend to take out their frustrations on their loved ones.
    So I think the fiancee did the right thing in leaving him.

    Having said that, I agree with all of your other observations.

    BTW, I happened on your blog through Philip.

  13. 13 Nikhil July 1, 2008 at 8:59 am

    That’s so awesome!

  14. 14 Poonam Sharma July 1, 2008 at 9:50 am

    @Dinu: Glad you found it touching, it is an issue close to my heart.

    @Shefaly: You are right, such situations must be hard. I would not judge the soldier’s fiance, I don’t know what it was. But she did give it a try. That is commendable.

    In this story, Cook was practically a father to his fiance’s kid. Now that he needs help, he is left alone. Perhaps its hard to be his lifelong companion, but its not a done thing to leave him in lurch, alone, when he can’t even move and manage alone. I am judging only by what I would want or do if I were in the situation. Are you saying it that if tomorrow, God forbid, something happens to me, I should be doomed to be alone. No, I don’t deserve that treatment only because I am disabled. Not from people in whom I place my trust for better and worse.

    @Reema: See my answer to Shefaly.

    True, now that you say that how electric shocks are treated in funny way in our movies. I have watched very few old movies. I never got a chance to watch movies until I was in last year of school. πŸ™‚

    I will just update my blogroll.

    @Arvind: Yes, guide dogs are common companions for blind in western world. I too wonder how they train them. Thanks for telling me about Dancer! IT resembles the story of Sudha Chandran who danced with Jaipuri leg in Naach Mayuri.

    @Manpreet: Welcome to Visceral Observations!

    Yes, me too, thank God for this God’s gift. When humans ditch you, these gifts come to rescue.

    @Nita: Thanks for telling me about Eshwar, I have not watched it. I will watch it soon.

    @RJ: πŸ™‚ Calling a obese person fat is also insensitive? Could be. But is obesity also a disability? I am just asking. I too liked Taare Zameen Pur, wrote a defensive review after a friend thrashed it on blog. πŸ™‚

    @Praneshachar: Thanks, yes, I do hope we have institutes like Helping Hands in India. But I am not sure if our laws would allow that and if amendment is required, how soon can we get it?

    @Ottayan: Welcome to Visceral Observations!

    I agree with what you have said about disabled people. But think about it, would you be want to be left in lurch in your hard times when you have yourself not found peace with yourself? Atleast, an effort could have been made. Sparsh deals with this thing, the blind Naseruddin Shah does not want to be treated as handicapped but is unable to accept that his woman, Shabana, is treating him as normal individual. I am not saying all real-life stories have to or will go Sparsh way, but a change in mindset is required.

    @Nikhil: What is awesome? The capuchin?

  15. 15 Ottayan July 1, 2008 at 11:21 am

    I agree with your reply totally.
    However, their words not only hurt but leave mental scars.
    And thanks for your welcome.

  16. 16 Soham July 1, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Great touching post !! .. Felt nice reading it..

  17. 17 Shefaly July 1, 2008 at 11:48 am


    Here is food for thought for you:


    In my view, ignoring disabled people is as bad as putting them ‘on show’ like this BBC show aims to. Its aim may be noble but I doubt it is going to achieve any change of heart in the fashion industry.

  18. 18 Shefaly July 1, 2008 at 11:52 am


    “Are you saying it that if tomorrow, God forbid, something happens to me, I should be doomed to be alone?”

    You have drawn that conclusion. That is patently not what I said. πŸ™‚

    In fact, I would turn around and ask – if you were in that woman’s situation, what would you do?

    Care is a burden of choice, not of obligation. And she has exercised that choice. Since you say she has a son, may be she has chosen to be a mother rather than a wife-cum-nurse. The answers are not clear cut. But unless we are in a situation on either side of the table, we can only hypothesise – mostly on the side of idealism – how we would react.

  19. 19 Poonam Sharma July 1, 2008 at 12:02 pm

    @Ottayan: Increasingly I am wondering, are you speaking from a personal experience? I do understand what you mean.

    @Soham: Thanks πŸ™‚

    @Shefaly: Reality shows are bad for even normal individuals (see today’s Nita’s post), I am sure such a public glare could be harsh on the disabled people.

    The conclusion is not literal. Its a question if all of us are right in shunning our own when they become disabled. If I were that woman, I would not, and can not turn my back on the man I love, who needs me most now.

    Though I agree care is a burden of choice and not obligation. Love breeds care, its not an obligation either. True, answers are not clear-cut. But I can’t ever give up, without trying. I am not being idealist, I am being realist. I have seen real couples, making by the side of their disabled spouse without rancor or regret. Love learns to endure.

  20. 20 Falcon July 1, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    That’s why I say trust ur dog ..(in this case monkey) over ur gal…

    And they call me sexist… And in some cases an animal right activist.. All I do is speak the truth…

  21. 21 Poonam Sharma July 2, 2008 at 11:48 am

    @Falcon: That was sexist! And utterly false. :x:

  22. 22 harshasrisri July 2, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    The ones we call animals come forward to help other animals. And the ones we call “HUMANS” forget that they too are animals.
    This post is a good example to tell people why we should save animals from extinction.
    I don’t blame the wife because she has a life to deal with and wouldn’t want to waste it on the cripple. But she could have done some other things, say, trying to get him a helper with the help of her new hubby’s wallet (and of course remain a friend and visit him occasionally)(and i don’t think it’ll cost a fortune)
    I have to admit – i think i am afraid of animals because i am forgetting that i am an animal. i can’t help it either!

  23. 23 Falcon July 2, 2008 at 10:14 pm


    Ok I make a correction… “Trust your bitch (the she- dog) over ur gal” Is it now sexist? And as true as anything can be…

  24. 24 Poonam Sharma July 4, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    @Harshasrisri: Exactly I was upset that she cut off ties completely. Don’t marry, but help him to get help. The guy could not pick up his cellphone, his connection to world, if he dropped it. When Minnie came, his life took turn for better. I feel scared. 😦

    @Falcon: Thought is still sexist. 😦

  25. 25 Falcon July 4, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    ok last attempt…

    β€œTrust your bitch (the she- dog)/dog over ur gal/boy”

    Poonam: Better!

  26. 26 Falcon July 7, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    I could have done with a little appreciation here 😦 πŸ˜›

  27. 27 abhijit July 8, 2008 at 10:16 am

    very touching story…

  28. 28 Poonam Sharma July 9, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    @Falcon: What for? It was your third attempt at normalcy. πŸ˜›

    @abhijit: Thanks! πŸ™‚

  29. 29 Mahendra April 8, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    I never got around to thanking you for mentioning my post, so here’s a belated Thank You!

  30. 31 raghavendra satish January 21, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for taking a step to educate people with regard to disability. I did a post on my blog after i read this post and these kind of things happen only in the developed countries.

    I would like to work with you in case if you need any assistance for future posts with regard to disability. I volunteer NGO’S and i work closely with the differently abled group.

  31. 33 raghavendrasatish January 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I volunteer Enable India at bangalore i work with them when ever i get free time. I can say i live with enable india virtually each second. You can get more details about it from here
    http://www.enable-india.org. yes my experiences…… are bit hard to swallow but they have a message to the world. Today i work for a IT company because of Enable India and they made a life for many and they will do it forever.

  1. 1 Disability and Me… « Visceral Observations Trackback on July 4, 2008 at 3:51 pm
  2. 2 Ray of Hope For The Disabled « Raghavendra Satish's Blog Trackback on January 22, 2010 at 12:34 am

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