Coronavirus-news April 23, 2020
Make India COVID-free & accessible – Wheelchair users spread important message through awareness videos
A group of wheelchair users across India from different fields have come together to create a series of awareness videos. The message they are sending to a locked down India is an important one. Read on to find out more.
Many of us may be grappling with the limitations on movement and communication in the COVID-19 world, but for the disabled community in India this is daily reality with public infrastructure largely inaccessible.
A group of 55 people with disabilities have banded together under a WhatsApp group to drive home a larger message during the lockdown. They call themselves Differently Able NextGen and have come together to share and exchange information about accessibility, lifestyle hacks for disabled people and assistive technologies. The group is made up of disabled people from different states. One thing many of them have in common is a background in para sports.
Post COVID-19 world should be accessible for all
Together they want to drive greater awareness about building an accessible world, a message they feel has never been more relevant now when everyone, disabled or not, is forced into lockdown.
“Two of our group members, Nisha Gupta and Oliver D’souza came up with a concept where people in wheelchairs spread an awareness message to the world about staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19 along with making the country more accessible for everyone”, says Birju Patel. Birju is a trustee at the Lions Blind Girls Welfare Centre Trust and Brand Ambassador of the Vadodara International Marathon. “This is the best way for us to showcase that we are not behind anyone in the fight against COVID-19 but are equal stakeholders in society”.
Twenty people have come together to post short simple messages on the videos. “They are of diverse backgrounds. While some work from home, others are officegoers. There are students and job seekers as well.
What we all share is a sense of being discriminated against in India due to inaccessibility. Now the rest of India knows what it is like to be stuck at home. We want to use this time when everyone is reassessing the future to reach out and ask people to join us in our fight to make India accessible. Start with your homes, buildings, societies, and neighbourhoods. – Oliver D’Souza, National swimmer, basketball player
The group wants to drive home a larger awareness of the need to make buses, trains, roads, footpaths, and infrastructure in general to be wheelchair accessible. “As long as that does not happen the world will perceive us as a nation that systematically discriminates and ignores people with disability”, adds Nisha, who is President of the Para Wheelchair Cricket Association, Maharashtra.
A COVID-19 free India should also be a wheelchair accessible India, says Oliver. “In a world where everyone uses assistive devices like elevators, bikes, cars and infrastructure like steps, doors, and ladders to lead a better life, why can’t the designers of future cities consider the needs of millions of disabled people as well”, he asks.
A worthwhile question that needs thinking about. Else post lockdown when many people go back to their usual routines, disabled people will still find themselves locked down.