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Kerala youth launch campaign to make public places accessible

Struggles of a wheelchair user are many. Most of them are unable to go out and enjoy or explore things due to lack of accessibility. We all know that most of our public places are inaccessible for wheelchair users. Inclusion seems to be only on papers. But a group of young people from Tirur in Kerala have come together to become real change-makers. The All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation (AKWRF) and Snehatheeram, a group run by a bunch of youngsters, have joined hands to make Tirur accessible for wheelchair users. Their campaign Idam has already been successful in ensuring installation of wheelchair ramps at prominent places in Tirur.

Idam in Malayalam means space and that is just what these youngsters are looking out for. Recently, they made a documentary on the hardships faced by wheelchair users and how Idam hopes to make a difference to it. The video went viral and was shared by people from across the globe.

According to organizers of Idam, even railway stations, government hospitals, shopping malls and cinema theatres are not accessible in Tirur. Wheelchair users are not given fair treatment making things worse for them. Over the years, wheelchair users in the city have been complaining to officials about their lack of accessibility features. Children are unable to attend schools because hardly any educational institutions have wheelchair ramps. Wheelchair users are clearly denied their rights.

When we go to public places, people raise their eyebrows. They ask us why are we outside when we are supposed to be staying indoors. How is that fair? Just because we have a disability, it does not mean that we need to shut ourselves from the world. We are humans and have the right to enjoy every bit of what a person without a disability does. We face discrimination every day. That is how we decided to do something about it and started off our campaign 'Idam'- Mohammed Rabeeh, Tirur Taluk Join Secretary, AKWRF

'Idam' also aims to introduce disabled friendly parking spaces at public places. Recently, they were allotted space at Tirur railway station for disabled friendly parking. But the youngsters had to pool in money from their pockets to renovate and make it user friendly.

"When we go to a railway station, we do not have exclusive disabled friendly parking spaces. So we are forced to go further for at least 200 to 300 metres. That causes so much inconvenience to a wheelchair user. We are glad that we could start off by introducing disabled friendly parking slots which are easier for wheelchair users", says Rabeeh.

AKWRF and Sneehatheeram kick-started the campaign on May 2016. Ever since then, they have been able to make a few shops and public places accessible. Now, with over 100 people who are part of the campaign, Idam hopes to spread wings to other parts of Kerala as well.

"Snehatheeram and AKWRF have been working closely for the past few months. Only recently did we actually think about the hardships faced by wheelchair users. It is high time that a change is brought about. The documentary that we made was also a huge success. It deeply moved many people who have been offering us a helping hand", says Ubaid, volunteer of Snehatheeram.

ALSO READ: You can make your home accessible and disabled friendly. Here are some tips.

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