A Drive to Empower People with Disabilities - My Take by Prajith Jaipal on why he wants to meet PM Modi

Driving 8,500 odd kilometres is not easy. It’s even harder when you are a wheelchair user. On 1 April, Prajith Jaipal will embark on such a journey. On My Take this week, Jaipal talks about the message he wants to send out.

Seven years ago, on 1 April 2011, I was in a car accident that left me a quadriplegic. I was paralyzed neck down. I was 33 years old at the time, and since then I have been in a wheelchair.

On the seventh anniversary of that accident, I am starting my drive from Kozhikode all the way to New Delhi and back, a drive of 8,500 plus kilometers. I know climactic conditions are not good, but I am determined as I have a mission on my mind.

Mission: Empowerment

I have three main reasons to do this drive. First, is to bring the wheelchair-bound community outside their four walls. Most of them are adamant about staying inside; either because they fear society will not accept them, or maybe they have an inferiority complex. I want to push them into coming outside into society and to mingle with everyone else.

The second reason is to create public awareness about the need to set up accessible infrastructure for people with disabilities. This includes wheelchair-parking spaces.

The third reason is to create awareness about giving job opportunities to disabled people. On my journey, I will be speaking to some corporates like Accenture, IBM, Vodafone and Airtel, where I used to work.

I have also started a website called www.thewheelersclub.com. Here I will be uploading videos about my journey as well as job opportunities for people with disabilities.

Anyone who is a wheelchair user can register on this site and look for job opportunities that are available and convenient to their needs. The jobs I will be putting out are that people with quadriplegia or paraplegia can do. They can apply according to their academic qualifications.

Few job opportunities for disabled people

I have experienced first-hand how hard it is for someone with a disability to find employment. After my accident, no one was willing to give me a job. This was even after 13 years of experience in the telecom sector. Various companies asked me whether I would be able to do the job given my disability.

Now I have a company of my own and I do ticketing for my friends and relatives. Having faced this bias when it comes to employment, I want to push for a change for other disabled people.

I am very happy with the support that I have received for this mission. Many are concerned about whether I am up to it, physically. My doctor has said that if I look after myself and stay confident, I could go ahead.

I have got my car modified so that I can make the trip. I am driving a Maruti Celerio car, which has been modified for my needs. It has a hand-operated brake, accelerator, and steering knob.

I hope to reach New Delhi in 48 days. I have an appointment with Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi. My aim is to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. About two years ago, I had written to his office asking that the welfare for people in wheelchairs be raised to Rs. 5,000 at the very minimum. I want to meet him and push for this.

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