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Fighting for accessibility & inclusion, My Way - Guest Column by Kaustubh Swaminathan

March 11, 2019

Our guest columnist for the week is Kaustubh Swaminathan, a cricket enthusiast and content writer from Chennai. His enthusiasm for sports is evident from his mission statement - To make all stadia wheelchair friendly.

Some things are meant to be and some things are exactly the opposite. What many are fighting for, accessibility and inclusion, are from the latter category. I am Kausthub Swaminathan and I am fighting the same battle in my own little way. I try to use social media and my little quotes and blogs to do my bit for something larger than life. Why larger than life, isn't the accessibility issue part of life? It is larger than life because what great, inspiring voices for accessibility and inclusion are aiming for will help challenged people far beyond this generation.

Basic humanity starts with inclusion

Inclusion starts with accessibility

Accessibility starts with basic humanity

It's a cycle which doesn't have to be vicious.

The above quote depicts my mindset more vividly than any other quote I've written. I'd like to think that many other differently abled people will have the same thought process. Don't let the author name fool you, dmdwords is my writer's identity and it stems from my Facebook page DMD Works.

So, what is DMD? Well it's the short form of the muscle condition that affects me, which is Duchenne's Muscular Dystrophy. It means I have to use a motorized wheelchair to get around. These can be called as some of my physical identities but the intended abbreviation is to describe my personality (in my view), my interests and my general mindset. So this DMD expands as "Determined Multi(-)Dimensional" and it is a huge part of who I am.

Path to self discovery

The journey of mine towards becoming who I am today actually started eight years ago. It's to be mentioned that I was in a wheelchair for four years then. I did have some self pity and at times frustration as to "Why me!". Here I have to give credit to my parents and all members of my family as they always made sure I didn't see myself as disabled. Whenever I made a mistake my parents didn't shy away from giving a piece of their mind which actually didn't allow self pity to set in earlier. All this support preserved my cheerfulness which I find invaluable till today.

Now back to 2011. I went for an alternative treatment and the three months I spent there changed my outlook and a part of me as a person, albeit some months after that. I had an opportunity to see how there are many people like me and some who suffer more than me. How did it help me and when? Well, I had a fracture and had to take around two years of bed rest. Did the self pity go away fully? No. But it was reduced to a bare minimum in even more trying circumstances. I started seeing positive side of things a lot more and that, people, changed my life.

In those two years I learnt a whole lot more than what 10 years of schooling taught me. I studied till class 7 at a normal school (PS Senior Secondary) with a lot of cooperation from their side and a lot of support from some teachers as well as the principal. Schoolmates were also of immense help for which I'm still grateful.

Even though I enjoyed studying, a lot of the interests I have now were generated in what should have been the two toughest years of my life. Physically it was incredibly difficult at times, but mentally it was mostly a blessing. From rediscovering my love for cars, to taking my love of sports to a whole new level, or learning a whole deal of information online to increasing my passion for music. From tinkering with animation, creating small games with a DIY software, and dabbing in coding. A whole revolution happened during this period that made me realize there is a whole world that I can delve into, right at the comfort of home.

Right now I'm a beginner in freelance sports journalism and write for online cricket websites. I wrote briefly for a tennis website as an intern too. At the same time I'm pursuing my senior secondary education via distance learning through the National Institute of Open Schooling which offers flexibility for disabled learners. To think that a world I discovered amidst, even in a way, due to a lot of adversity gives me the strength and motivation to embrace adversity, instead of trying to run away or hide from it. Now the same world has given an opportunity to voice and advocate for accessibility in a little way.

I keep tweeting and posting from time to time in a bid to raise awareness. I started the hashtag #WeWantAccessibility to get others involved. I gave an interview to a website called CricTracker on the need for accessible cricket stadiums because a campaign that starts out of a passionate place tends to have better response. This gave way to a more popular hashtag that says #AccessibleCricketGroundsForAll and I hope it reaches the people that matter. I'm also trying to address accessibility through different points of view in my blogs. Apart from trying to create awareness, I intend to spread positivity and write motivational and philosophical content. Hobby and passion wise I absolutely enjoy playing cricket at home wielding my plastic bat and watching feel good tv series and movies.

This is me and this is my life, for now!

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