Disability Heroes - Prajith Jaipal is out to create a new India, accessible & barrier-free
In our series Disability Heroes, we profile one of Kerala's most popular disability rights activist Prajith Jaipal who has stood up for disabled people, their rights and accessibility issues. His NGO Divyang Foundation Trust lends a helping hand to people with disabilities in need. Jaipal has empowered hundreds of disabled people and his journey to make a difference is truly inspiring
Like most youngsters his age, Prajith had his goal clearly set out - finish studies, land a good job and build a stead career. In 2011, all that changed when he met with an accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. He became a quadriplegic, but the accident did not break his spirits.
Today, this 41-year-old is committed to building an accessible India.
After my accident which left me with a 70% disability, I did not want to be confined to the four walls of my house. So I stepped out and that is when I actually started improving. I have done much research on possible ways to recover. I even interacted with scientists and experts who have come up with breakthrough inventions for people with a spinal cord injury. Today, I pass on all this information to others who have a spinal cord injury because all this helps to develop hope in them. - Prajith Jaipal
Meeting PM Modi
In April this year, Prajith set off on a 8500-km ride from Kozhikode to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was a drive with a clear mission - to spread awareness about disability. Prajith says the drive happened thanks to the immense support and hard work put in by people around him. It inspired him to look at reaching out to more disabled people and this was how the Divyang Foundation Trust was born in 2018.
The foundation has played a major role in rebuilding the lives of people affected in the Kerala floods. Prajith and his team reached out to youngsters with muscular dystrophy and were given beds and free physiotherapy sessions. These are just among a handful of things that Prajith has been doing for people from the disabled community.
Currently, he is in the United States to research the ability expo which he plans to bring to India in the year 2020. They plan to bring together ability equipment manufacturers, universities and colleges that empower members of the disabled community and enlighten them on matters that can help them in the future, mainly robotics and artificial intelligence.
"When it comes to providing accessibility, India has a long way to go. We must start from the basics. That is, the existing buildings and those that are going to be constructed must be made accessible and disabled friendly. The government must make this law mandatory", says Prajith.
Shejith Ravindran, co-founder of DTF and a close friend admires his willpower and determination. "For me, Prajith is one of the most motivating persons I have come across in life. So even when we are low, Prajith cheers us up with his positivity. He hopes to build a township, exclusively for disabled people by the year 2020. He wants DTF to lead the way. Clearly, our public places are inaccessible to disabled people. Prajith wants to make a difference to this, and he has been working relentlessly for the cause", she says.
Disability rights activist Unni Maxx has worked closely with Prajith on many projects. A wheelchair user, Maxx calls Prajith an inspiration.
"Prajith has been doing some great things for the disabled community, like driving all the way to Delhi on his own to promote awareness on what a disabled person is capable of doing. I know he has some big plans for the future and I hope he achieves his dreams to the fullest", says Unni.
Prajith has a lot on his plate. The next one is a world tour where he plans to visit countries to create awareness about the upcoming ability expo 2020. He hopes to meet people and spread the message #shakehandswithme which will be introduced on social media very soon.
"Disability is on our minds. We are all disabled in some way or the other, aren't we? But nobody can stop you from achieving your dreams. I believe every human being is talented and skilled. Hence, you must step out and enjoy life. Support others who need your help. The world around you is supportive. You just need to raise your voice and hands so that you are heard", adds Prajith.