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Newz Hook's Top 10 Disability Influencers for 2018

From academia to politics to corporate India, 2018 was a year when disability and inclusion came to the forefront in multiple ways.

Driving this visibility were many amazing people, who through social media campaigns, court cases and protests, helped build awareness and sensitization.

They told the world - Here we are. Look at Us. Listen. We have a Voice. Hear Us.

Here is Newz Hook's list of 2018's Top 10 Disability Influencers of 2018. They are warriors who remind us every day why an inclusive world is just, why an inclusive world is beautiful and how we must all strive to build one.

  • Dr Satendra Singh - Be it an inaccessible bridge or the exclusion of disabled candidates in medical education, Dr Singh is always ready to fight the good fight. His tireless advocacy led various high courts and the Supreme Court to strike down unjust provisions that act as barriers for disabled people who wish to pursue MBBS. No one puts it better than his mentor Dr Upreet Dhaliwal.
  • He is a true fauji son who never believes in laying down the arms. He believes that no one is disabled and that it is the world that makes you so. - Dr Upreet Dhaliwal, University College of Medical Sciences

  • Words are inadequate to describe Prajith Jaipal's commitment to build an accessible world. Jaipal, who was disabled in an accident, is committed to empowering others like him, be it at the workplace or in their daily lives. Technology, he believes is key, and his passion has convinced no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Close friend Sunish Nair says Jaipal's positive nature is his strongest asset. "He encourages people to look outward. He is not at all bothered by his disability and he communicates that spirit".

  • It was sports that lifted Mohammed Shams Alam Shaikh's spirits after he was disabled in an accident. This champion para swimmer is now looking at ways to empower other disabled people through sports. Childhood friend Anderson X Raj feels inspired by this energy. "His determination to strive and push despite obstacles is most inspiring.".
  • Fiery and opinionated, Vaishnavi Jayakumar is visible both at the policy level as well as on the ground. "She makes sure things are done in the right manner", says Amar Jain, fellow influencer and Vaishnavi's comrade in arms in key fights. "She is active, approachable and very good in terms of analyzing the law. As a key member of the Disability Rights Alliance, she has done some amazing work, especially in Tamil Nadu".
  • From accessibility audits to a petition to make Indian Sign Language official, Nipun Malhotra works tirelessly to bring the disabled community together. This young disability advocate's commitment and passion comes, according to mother Priyanka Malhotra "from the discrimination he has faced. Nipun has empathy for everyone and the idea of equality is embedded deep within him."
  • Young, confident and articulate, Mumbai lawyer Amar Jain has strong views about inclusion. Be it inaccessible currency or websites, his legal expertise and witty language skills make him a valuable resource. His work has been instrumental in the issuing of home loans to persons with disabilities under the National Housing Bank.

    Neha Aggarwal, who works with Deloitte India-U. S, calls him a go-getter. "One of the proudest moments for his family and friends when he got hired in one of the best private law firms in India as the first young visually challenged employee. He completely owns his actions irrespective of his accomplishments or slip ups. He was never bothered with what others are whispering about him, and keeps digging in to gather the required details including everything between gathering information to make available technology accessible or help people around him".

  • Building a support network of parents of kids with disabilities is not easy. Gopi Ramakrishnan, co-founder of Chennai-based Special Child Assistance Network (SCAN), has also nurtured it such that SCAN has ties with the community at large, making it a truly inclusive initiative.

    As Deepa Vijay, a core member of SCAN says "it is rare to find his kind of commitment especially in someone whose child is not affected by a disability in any significant way. Gopi reaches out to everyone. Even if you call him late at night with a crisis, he will be there".

  • From blogging about disability to conducting accessibility audits, Jasmina Khanna manages to combine her passion for advocacy with a busy schedule as a working professional. This young woman is always looking to support accessibility initiatives in every space, from transport to travel to dating. Close friend Satish Desa describes her as a "mind-shifter", "someone who shares everything she has, the struggles and the successes". More power to you Jasmina!
  • Pradeep More has a life story that is truly cinematic. This deaf youth from rural Maharashtra saw a dream that brought him to Mumbai and a life of much struggle before he found his space as a trainer and emerging political leader. More is a future leader in the making, believes Atiya Hajee, Project Coordinator, Digital Sign Language Lab, Haryana Welfare Society for Persons with Speech & Hearing Impairment, "He is a go getter who is very focused. He never takes no for an answer and has influenced many people".
  • If he is not in the office, Vineet Saraiwala is either running a marathon or preparing for one. This young man believes in pushing boundaries at the personal level and at work. As Deputy Manager, Future Retail, Saraiwala, spearheads projects across segments and works like anyone else on the team, says Sadashiv Naik, CEO, Future Retail Limited. "Vineet has a keen, analytical mind and is often the one asking the uncomfortable questions at the big meetings, questions that make the team go back and re-assess the bases".

More power to all of you!

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