In reference to Ruskin Bond's story 'The Eyes Are not Here', what is the explanation of the saying 'Disability does not mean disabled'?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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This is actually a thought provoking question. Governments that pay out disability income to ill or injured or otherwise impaired people certainly do insist that "disability" certainly does mean "disabled." The definition of "disabled" is, quite simply, not able or no longer able to perform living tasks or employment jobs on your own, successfully, or in a competent manner. "Disabled" does not refer to a personal judgement while it most certainly does (from a legal and governmental perspective) refer to a performance judgement. And I dare say that people with acknowledged "disabilities" more often than not recognize their "disability" in the most poignant way, in such a way that requires stoutness of will and courage and inner strength to keep steadfastly putting one foot in front of the other, metaphorically speaking.

This element of courage is, I think, the readiest route for associating the adage "Disability does not mean disabled" to Bond's story. In brief, it tells of two completely sightless people meeting on a train. During their short chat (it had to be short for Bond's purposes in order to limit the chances of their revealing their sightlessness to each other) they each try to (1) keep up a pretense of sightedness and (2) get as much information out of the other as possible. [That the young woman is keeping up a pretense is unclear as we do not know her thoughts, only her remarks, but there seems to be a commonality in how they address each other in the train: "I love the hills. Especially in October."] The mutual trait of courage shows in their mutual attitudes of good will and pleasantness.

This courage is illustrated in the young woman by her voice that had "the sparkle of a mountain stream," her laugh like a ringing bell, and by her readiness to engage in cheerful conversation (though warned carefully not to talk to strangers!) The rose scent flowing from her hair is symbolic of this courage, this unfaltering ability drawn from inner strength to keep taking joyful steps even when, metaphorically and literally, she can't see where those steps might take her.

... only the perfume still lingered where she had stood.

You may break, you may shatter the vase if you will, but the scent of the roses will linger there still...

The young man's courage in the face of deep sorrow ("the thought of laughter only made me feel troubled and lonely") is illustrated in his employing a "game" in each situation and with each individual: "It could be a fascinating game." Actually, he plays two kinds of games. One is that he tries to pass as someone with sight for as long as he can. This is part of his demonstration of courage: the game evades the painful necessity of explanations--explanations and reactions that drain precious courage, not help build it up. The second is that he recalls scenes and activities from memory, then tries to recreate a vision of similar present activity or scenes. 

Based on this analysis, having a disability might in a sense be said to not equate with being disabled because their courage, strong inner traits and willingness to perceive the world as rose scent on a breeze, sparkling laughter, cool and fresh autumnal scents, and pleasant conversations provides them the path to do the utmost of what they are able.

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