No, can't, don't!
These were the words which continued to ring in the ears of myself, as well as those of many blind people, across the world. This is because most times our parents/guardians are afraid of us as people.
How do you take a bath?
How do you change your clothes?
These are frequently asked questions, in the life of a girl with a disability which would otherwise be a complete embarrassment in the case of the so called normal class of people. I grew up in a military family, travelling from one state to another in India, shifting schools, being thrown out of class, not being allowed to play in the field, not getting my Braille books on time, being publically humiliated during the maths exam, these are just some of the challenges I faced. After the demise of my Mother, menstrual hygiene was yet another huge milestone to conquer.
My hostel wardens in the hostel where I stayed, would not even show us how to use sanitary pads, as a result most of the blind girls used to dirty our dress, and we were considered a curse to our community, as in Indian tradition menstruation is considered as impure. I then found a lady, who is like a mother to me, who taught me all these concepts with the utmost care, and I thus learned, overcame that hurdle as I overcame many such hurdles. Then came the challenges of travelling alone as a girl with a disability, the mental and physical abuse in different situations, self-defense classes, soon put a stop to that, and my training at MOBILITY INTERNATIONAL USA, played a vital role in this respect.
I started my organization Jyothirgamaya Foundation in the year 2015, after completing my SOCIAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT TRAINING at KANTHARI INTERNATIONAL, BRAILLE WITHOUT BORDERS. It is then that I started understanding the challenges of others. I traveled from home to home in search of blind people, bringing them out, empowering them, training them in various concepts, especially how to use a cane, travel alone, go to a shop, use a smart phone, a computer, a recorder, and many other such assistive aids which makes life easy, and which enabled them to be at par with their sighted counterparts.
I worked with “The Election Commission” for inclusive elections, and Braille voting ballots. I have worked for accessible currency notes after the 2016, sudden change in currency notes, declared by our Prime Minister. I envision a barrier free environment for us blind, especially women. What do we do to make this world a better place? The Indian government has passed the rights of persons with disabilities act in the year 2016, which emphasises on accessibility almost 48 times, and inclusion many times too. Measures have been taken to make schools inclusive, and infrastructure accessible.
I work with IT companies to make digital content accessible, and follow the web content accessibility guidelines, so as to pave the way for full access of people with disabilities to access digital information, and have it at their fingertips. I imagine a world where people with disabilities, take charge of the world around, where they rule the world, where info is at their fingertips, and they are living with dignity.
I am a TED speaker, A NATIONAL AWARD WINNER, and a love of adventure. I was always shy that girls can't be included in sports, but I soon broke that barrier through my skydiving, paragliding, and tandem cycling done in the course of my social activities.
I feel the world has to change, and accept us the way others are accepted. Women with disabilities are singled out due to the use of a white cane, due to the fact that they are women, and in addition to this they are disabled, BUT THIS HAS TO CHANGE, and I am confident that WORLDPULSE, women enabled, Jyothirgamaya (My NGO) can do this together.