“Believe in yourself”- My Take by disability rights activist Smitha Sadasivan
Smitha Sadasivan is a prominent disability rights activist from Chennai. She was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis twenty years back and has been using a wheelchair since the past ten years. Smita has been working towards increasing accessibility across Tamil Nadu. Smitha works as an accessibility consultant with the Election Commission of India. Her journey towards empowerment is truly inspiring.
I was affected by Multiple Sclerosis almost twenty years back. Since the last ten years I have been using a wheelchair. My family consisting of my parents live in Chennai and we have been here for the past many years. When I was affected by a disability, the first few years were hard for me. My life had turned upside down.
In fact, I confined myself to the four walls of my home. I refused to even go out. I couldn’t see the end of the tunnel and became depressed all the time. I was doing my graduation during that time. I even discontinued my studies. But a few professors of mine did not give up on me. They encouraged me to start doing things that I like. Soon, I wrote my exams with the help of a scribe. After graduation, I joined NGO Vidyasagar. I met Poonam Natarajan there and my life changed.
I used to work alternate days. If I work one whole day, I needed bed rest the next day. I slowly started taking up more projects. I got the stamina to do things. I even started travelling and did sessions on disability rights. I attended programmes in Mumbai and started sensitizing people about disabilities. From being a depressed person, I could start exploring the world from a whole new perspective. I even did an M.Phil in Psychology.
Journey towards empowerment
I became a member of the Disability Rights Alliance. I’am also the accessibility consultant for the Election Commission of India (ECI) where I work. I’am the mentor at Multiple Sclerosis Society and for Rising Flames programme. By working with all these organisations, I hope I can make our public places more accessible for people with disabilities.
The ECI is always open to changes and they want to make elections accessible. The same with Greater Chennai Corporation as well. They agreed to make Marina and Eliots beaches accessible, procured beach wheelchairs and also agreed to make pavements accessible. They even made an inclusive park at Santhome. But still, I feel there is so much more to improve.
Accessibility must be there in technology as well. Like all department websites must be made accessible for people with disabilities. Public places like ration shops and even government offices still largely remains inaccessible. People with disabilities are unable to become independent or even work because transport facilities are not disabled friendly. Many are not able to even complete their education due to this. There must be provisions for high support.
My family has always stood by me through thick and thin. My parents are my pillars of strength. From my experience I have learnt to never look back. Instead, move ahead with full confidence. There is nothing to look back. Tap the opportunities that come your way. I have come out successfully after a disability. Believe in yourself and evolve your support system. Make the best out of everything.