Nidhi was around 15-year-old when she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a progressive degenerative eye disorder that mostly renders one blind. She spent her teenage years, unraveling her disability and within four to five years of diagnosis, Ms. Goyal had lost complete vision. This was when Nidhi had to forgo her dream of becoming a portrait painter, something she had been working towards since she was four.
"Hi, I am Nidhi Goyal and I am blind, but so is love, maybe we should get over it". That's how Nidhi Goyal, India's first female disabled stand-up comedian introduces herself to overcome the awkwardness that sets in when she walks on a stage. She uses comedy to challenge existing stigmas around disabilities and gender.
Recalling her debut performance, Nidhi said, "People were so uncomfortable for the first two to three minutes that they forgot that I am a comic. They only kept looking at my disability. At the end of the performance, a woman came up to me and said, I was laughing and falling off my chair but also cringing thinking, 'Oh my god, I do this to people with disabilities'."
But one thing that followed her through all stages of life was the discrimination because of her blindness. For instance, once an airline denied assisting her during an eight-hour layover. When Ms Goyal decided to go to a cafe and grab a cup of coffee on her own or use a washroom, her passport was taken away.
The disabled-feminist activist is on the diversity and inclusion task force of FICCI, and sits on the advisory board of Voice, a grant making project by the Dutch ministry. She has been a global advisor to UN Women's Executive Director and worked with a range of national and global women's rights, disability rights, and human rights organisations.
Ms Goyal believes the mindset of the people is a big challenge when it comes to leaving no one behind and ensuring inclusion. She is of the opinion that at some point, society is fine with people with disabilities existing, getting educated and employed but not okay with them having "normal" experiences like getting married and being a mother. We have removed people with disabilities from the category "normal", she said.
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