Community Stories, Advocacy and Campaigns, Health and Disability, Students and Graduates, Staying in work, Self-Employment, Organisations, Employers, Spotlight Stories,Blog Views
Patchworker Spotlight: Puneet’s story
Puneet Singh Singhal is a Disability Inclusion and Accessibility Advocate, and the Founder of ssstart. We recently spoke with Puneet to find out more about his story, his motivation for the work that he does, and his thoughts on disability equality.
To start, could you please tell us about yourself?
My name is Puneet Singh Singhal and I’m from New Delhi, India. I’m a person with an undiagnosed learning disability and stammering. I see my life as the intersection of poverty, domestic violence, and multiple invisible disabilities. I’m a disability activist advocating for a more inclusive and accessible society for people with different and distinct, visible, and invisible disabilities. I’m also the founder of a non-profit called ssstart, working towards normalizing speech and communication disabilities, mainly stammering.
Can you tell us a bit more about your story?
As a little child in New Delhi, life was beautiful. I remember when I started my schooling, it was so much fun learning English and Hindi alphabets, mathematics, and drawing. I used to recite prayers and sing the national anthem in the school assembly. In classes, I was the one who read the mathematics table aloud as my classmates repeated after me.
But then everything changed when I witnessed violence among adults for the first time. I felt wounded and yet so numb that I used to stand in one place for hours without having a single thought. I found myself in shackles. Before, I was scared to sit in the dark, but at this point, I found refuge in darkness. I stopped communicating. When I was asked a question, my words didn’t come out.
The school stage that used to be my comfort zone changed into a battlefield. One day, the whole class started to stammer “gu-gu-gu-good morning,” and I realized that they were mocking me. My classmates and their parents even complained to the principal that I could be a bad influence and make all of them stammerers. My mother couldn’t believe that her son, whose tongue was as fast as a train and sharp as a razor, was struggling with his speech! Being subject to constant mocking, I completely lost my confidence.
I used different strategies to ease my stammering: finding alternatives for words I generally got stuck on, reducing my statements to a minimum, or arriving late to avoid introducing myself. When people tried to help by asking me to slow down or by finishing my sentences, it made me even more self-conscious. And then there were these weird and rather dangerous pieces of advice like licking ashes of cremated bodies or rubbing alum on the tongue until the upper layer was removed.
Looking back, my childhood was not easy, but do I regret having a stammer? No. It made me a more sensitive human being. I feel connected with all who are unable to express their thoughts and are longing to be understood.
Witnessing violence in my personal surroundings shook me and took me to an island of isolation and loneliness. I changed from a child who loved to be in the spotlight to a stammering, timid boy who tried to avoid conversation. Today, I embrace my special style of communication, and I dream to set free those who experience real barriers to communicating fluently.
Have you faced any workplace barriers due to your situation? Do you think the ‘conventional’ world of work most employers use needs to change?
The impact at work depends on the culture of the organisation/area of business we work for. The more value-based and ethically literate the place is, the better the conditions. For example, many HR staff with whom I disclosed my stammering replied that they also stammer occasionally. An occasional stammer is not the same as a diagnosis of stammering at the clinical level. While this may be well-intentioned, it undermines the extent of the struggle experienced by someone with a stammer. Societal change needs to occur so we can:
- Create a general culture of respect and ethical literacy.
- Change opinions so people don’t think that dysfluency is a sign of low intellectual capabilities.
- Have zero tolerance for bullying by co-staff, HR, and even seniors to the person who stammers.
- Promote stammering voices to speak in public, if they are willing, to raise awareness and normalize speech differences. This is only possible if there is trust and mutual respect.
If you could change one thing about the world of work or the way employers saw accessibility, what would it be and why?
Accessibility improves the life of all.
What inspired you to start doing the work you currently do?
My life with poverty, domestic violence, and multiple disabilities drive me to change the lives of other people like me. No matter how small the change is, I’m immensely self-motivated and I do not feel the need to get motivated by an external source. My life is inspirational enough to fuel me up to keep working day in and day out.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt from your career to date?
Disability is diverse. There are many vastly different disability issues, all equally important but some are covered and talked about more than others. From ramps to sign language and employment opportunities to healthcare, there is a wide range of issues to think about which makes it difficult to prioritize. This then causes millions of people with disabilities to feel ignored or sidelined, almost like there’s a hierarchy within the disability community. Although the communities and organizations are committed to full inclusion, on ground levels, we are struggling to live up to these ideals. For example, the divide between physical disabilities and mental or cognitive disabilities is pretty evident. Moreover: race, gender, sexuality, education, wealth, and other identities also play a huge role in generating strong division amongst disability communities.
Do you have a favourite quote or personal mantra?
“There is nothing impossible in all the world except that the heart of man is wanting in resolution” — Confucius.
If you could change one thing about people's perception of disability, what would it be?
Disability is not a punishment, it is difference. We add to the diversity.
Find out more about Puneet’s story and work:
Published: 8th December 2022
- accessibility ramps
- cognitive disabilities
- disability community
- domestic violence
- employment opportunities
- intellectual capabilities
- invisible disabilities
- invisible disability
- learning disability
- New Delhi
- physical disabilities
- public speaking
- Puneet Singh Singhal
- senior staff
- sign language
- speech differences
- work environment
- working conditions
- Spotlight stories
All TagsAccessibility Accessibility int he workplace Accessibility ramps Adaptive fashion Advocacy All Saints Alt text Assistive technology Autism Awareness Blog Bullying Burnout Business Businesses Cancer Candidates Captions Cerebral palsy Characters Charity Charity sector Chronic pain Closed captions Clothes Clothing Cognitive disabilities Communication Companies Company Company Corner Confidence Confucius Consultant Consultation Content designer Data talent Diagnosis Difference Digital transformation Disabilities Disability advocate Disability advocates Disability community Disability confident Disability inclusion Disability Policy Centre Disabled Disabled people Disabled People’s Direct Action Network Disabled-led Diverse Diversity Diversity and inclusion Diversity Recruitment Platform Domestic violence Dysfluency Education Employment opportunities Empowerment Ethnic minorities Fashion Fashion industry Feedback Flexible work Freelance Game Gaming Gareth Walkom Garment technologist Gastrointestinal conditions Gender Guide dog Healthcare HR Hybrid working Inclusion Inclusivity India Inspiration Intellectual capabilities Interviews Invisible disabilities Invisible disability Istituto Marangoni Jack Wills Job descriptions Job interviews Job opportunities Learning disability Leeds Leeds trinity university Legislation LGBTQ+ Long-term health condition Long-term health conditions Maya angelou Meta Metaverse Migrants Motivation Musculoskeletal conditions Neurodivergence Neurodivergent Neurodiversity consultant Neurodiversity space Neurotype Neurotypes New Delhi Non-profit Partially sighted People Phase Eight Phone calls Physical disabilities Pirate video games Policy Poverty Presentations Primark Public speaking Puneet Singh Singhal Race Raising awareness Registered blind Remote work Rights School Scope Self-employed Self-employment Senior staff Sexuality Shaw trust Shaw trust power 100 list Sign language Social mobility Social-emotional learning Social-emotional learning platform Software Speaking situation Speech differences Speech disabilities Speech impediment Spotlight series Spotlight stories Ssstart Staff Stammer Stammering Stories Stuttering Sweaty Betty Tech industry Tech talent TEDx Tesco Think tank Underrepresentation Unhidden Unhidden Clothing Universities Vanessa Castañeda Gill Victoria Beckham Video game Violence Virtual reality VR Web accessibility Women Work environment Work from home Working conditions Working from home Youth Access to work Accessibility in the workplace Accessibility test Accessible work Acting Adhd Adjustments Administrative Adrian lord Advice Advocacy and campaigns Allparty parliamentary group for inclusive entrepreneurship American civil rights movement Android Anglonorman App Artificial intelligence Bad grammar Barriers to work Bbc Benefits Blind persons act Blue badge Blue badge service specialists Care Career Carer Celtic languages Center on everyday lives of families Ceo Cfs Chloe tear Chronic fatigue syndrome Chronic health condition Chronic illness Community Community story Community, community story, founder, feature, accessible work, disability employment gap, making a difference Companies house Compressed hours Computer science Computers Coronavirus Councils Covid19 Crystal mark standard Deaf Demo Design Dialects Dictionary Digital accessibility Disability Disability discrimination act Disability employment gap Disability rights movement Disability services Disabled peoples direct action network Disabled persons employment act Easy read Email address Employers Employment English English speakers Entrepreneur Entrepreneurship Epilepsy Equality Equality act Equality and diversity Equality of access Esources, disability, disability services, support services, community story, features, adjustments, social support network Eugenics Facebook Feature Features Fibromyalgia First world war Flexi Flexible working Flexitime Flextime Founder Francesco cirillo Freelancing French Gcses Gdpr General data protection regulation Good Good grammar Google Government policy Government support Graduate Graduates Grammar Grammar schools Health Health condition Health conditions Hearing impairment History History of language Holistic Ico Impact Imposter syndrome Inclusive entrepreneur network Inequalities Inequality Information commissioners office Information governance Instagram Internet Jacqueline winstanley Language Latin Law Learning difficulties Lexicographers Limited company Local councils Local government Making a difference Marketing strategy Mecfs Medical conditions Medical model of disability Medical vs social models of disability Medicines Mental health Middle english Mindfulness Mlm Mobility issues Multilevel marketing National league of the blind Neurodiversity Niya Normans Old english Old french Onboarding and retention Online Out of work Oxbridge Parent Passwords Patchwork hub Payment details Planning Planning for work Podcasts Pomodoro Preposition Private schools Psychiatric Psychiatry Punctuation React Reasonable adjustments Recruitment Remote working Resources Resources and support Rest Retinopathy of prematurity Sales Scam Search engine Second world war Shell shock Slang Social Cipher Social interactions Social media Social model of disability Social support network Socialising Spelling Spoken language Spotlight stories Standard english Startup State schools Student Students Studying Suffragette movement Support Support services Syntactician Syntax Technology The Disability Policy Centre The elderly Then barbara met alan Trafalgar square Turkish United nations Universal inclusion University University of arts london University of cambridge University of hertfordshire University of hull University of leeds University of oxford Victoria Jenkins Visual impairment War Ways of working West germanic dialects William shakespeare Windsor consultations WithVR Wordpress Work structure Workforce recruitment Working environment Workplace barriers World war one World war two Young carer