Nadir Malizia debunks six stereotypes about disability

by Beatrice Credi - 2015.06.25
Nadir Malizia debunks six stereotypes about disability
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A jumping horse with wheels instead of legs is on the original cover of Vita su Quattro Ruote (Life on Four Wheels), the debut from Nadir Malizia, a young writer in a wheelchair. He describes his life with a disability, beyond the usual boundaries. There are plenty of stereotypes and myths to debunk and he has compiled a special selection for West:

Physical barriers. I could quote a phrase from my book: “I feel like a normal man in a disabled society.” Compared to other European countries, Italy is behind the times. There is still too much bureaucracy and widespread indifference. Our independence must be 360 degrees. Many however believe that we should be confined to the four walls of home. I visited England and the welcome was great. I will always remember what a policeman at Buckingham Palace said to me. “We can fend for ourselves, but you must be helped to be independent, free citizens.” I felt part of that country.

Children and disability. My cousin Roberta was afraid of me, she called me “the man with the bad wheels”. Then, obviously curious, she wondered why I never got out of the chair. We tried to explain it without hypocrisy. She's now 27 and we have a great relationship. Parents should listen to their own children and answer their questions without creating taboos.

Love and sex. Disabled people cannot love, nor have sex according to the common clichés but it is absolutely not true. We, too, have desires to express and feelings to share which are repressed if you say that having a disability means not having feelings. Having a sexual assistant has been talked about by some. It might be helpful for some, but not all. Personally I don't need one. From this point of view I never had any problems - quite the contrary!

Pitying looks from others. I've had people say things like “Poor thing, I feel sorry for him,” and I could never stand it. Even today, when I hear an adult saying, “He's not lucky like you; he is in a wheelchair,” I want to tackle this hypocrisy. Much of it stems from the fear of saying something that may offend.

Work. The current idea is that we are useless because we are not productive. Nothing could be more wrong. Most disabled people have, for example, an excellent level of education. For example, I have a degree and a specialisation, and I also speak English and German. I been to several job interviews but I was told that I was too highly qualified or I was advised to change profession. The job centre told me that the most I could hope for was manual labour. Yes, that's right: a labourer in a wheelchair.

Cinema, literature and disability. In the past the issue wasn't dealt with in the world of fiction. Today, things have changed. As for publishing, on the other hand, it is thought many emerging authors don't stand a chance. The opposite happened to me. My editors, Cynthia Tocci and Federica Barbarossa, were able to see beyond my disability. They are by my side, supporting and promoting my book exactly as they support all other authors.

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