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How Arun overcame his disability to help other people with disabilities

In our coverage around Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we bring you the story of Arunkumar S, in his own words. Born with a disability, Arun talks about his mission to empower other disabled people with access to skills and opportunities.

When I was a child, my mom used to hide me and not introduce me to her friends because of their regular questions about my disability.

I had skyphoscoliosis from birth and she would worry a lot about my future. It's a condition where the spine is affected due to the curvature of the vertebral column in two planes. I would be compared to my cousins, who were not disabled, all the time.

Their physical development was very good and when we used to visit my mother's native place in Shivamogga, Karnataka, some relatives would degrade me by pointing to my disability. They were not willing to accept me or help me.

Power of the mind

However, every time that would happen, I would motivate myself. I would do something bigger so that people would identify me as a leader. Like I was determined that my cousins should not overtake me. So, I participated in all the activities that they did, like ride bicycles, climb trees, play cricket, etc.

I got interested in social activities quite early in life. I started off by becoming the leader of a local youth group. Then, after finishing class 12, I joined the NGO Sama Foundation as a volunteer. Sama Foundation is based in Bengaluru and it works towards educating children with severe disabilities to give them access to opportunities they are usually denied.

I went on to become a member of the Karnataka State Disability Network in 2009. This gave me critical exposure as the role required me to visit different districts of Karnataka. I was also a promoter for training groups in community-based rehabilitation (CBR) guidelines.

Later I joined Mobility India, which works in the disability, development and rehabilitation sector in the fundraising and communication department.

These experiences led me to launch Voice of Needy Foundation, with the aim to act as a bridge connecting resources to people who need them, especially at the local level like the district disability welfare offices, civic corporation, representatives etc.

We started with a small room that served as a day care centre for disabled kids and a training centre for their parents on basic physiotherapy. This grew into a community program for people with disabilities across wards that covered over 20 slums. We were able to reach out to over 1,000 people in north west Bangalore.

Awareness was a key part of our efforts and we did that in many ways through rallies and plays. The impact is being seen now as people have become aware of our work.

Pankh - Wings of Destiny, an initiative by Trust for Retailers and Retail Associated of India (TRRAIN) has played an integral part in our growth. As our first funding partner. It helped us develop the program in a bigger way. It gave us the opportunity to implement our vision of empowering people with disabilities.

I have many more dreams. My goal is to represent people with disabilities at an international-level. I want to become an agent of change and develop the Voice of Needy Foundation as one of the most reputed organizations working towards creating livelihood opportunities for people with disabilities.

Read the other stories around the theme of accessibility for Global Accessibility Awareness Week:

Breaking notions about travel & disability with accessible travel experiences for visually impaired people

India's rich past comes alive in sensory ways at this accessible exhibition in Delhi

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