Get-hooked August 9, 2021
Chennai support group SCAN offers inclusive housing for disabled people
SCAN, the Chennai-based support group for families with disabled children, and real estate developer Akshaya Private Ltd have tied up to start an inclusive housing project for people with disabilities. The larger vision of the project is to promote inclusion in every aspect of life.
‘Who after us?’ That’s a question that nags many parents of children with disabilities. It’s a worry that acquires larger proportions as these parents grow older and find it increasingly hard to care for them.
It’s a vulnerability that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has underlined further. There were plenty of media reports of elderly parents struggling to care for their disabled children when support services came to an abrupt stop.
Concerns that Special Child Assistance Network (SCAN), a prominent Chennai-based support group for families with disabled children, started looking into in 2014-15 when the group came together. At first, the idea was to start a separate community for such families, says group co-founder Gopinath Ramakrishnan. Over time, the idea evolved into starting an inclusive housing project for disabled people.
First-of-its-kind inclusive housing project
We defined Inclusive Living as being able to “Live, Work and Play amongst others, just like everyone else!” This has become the cornerstone of our initiative, and at all times we ask if we are staying true to this. The idea was never to be different for the sake of it, but just an affirmation of our belief that our children should not be denied an opportunity to live, work and play amongst others. – Gopinath Ramakrishnan, Co-founder, Special Child Assistance Network
It’s this vision that sets SCAN’s inclusive housing project for disabled people apart from some other housing projects in India. “When we started talking inclusion, we realized that we have to include others too!”, says Ramakrishnan. “For example, many wanted the cafeteria or therapy center to be exclusively for our group. However, it quickly became apparent that we need to walk the talk – so we said that all facilities we create would be open to all”.
Overwhelming response from parents
There were some initial challenges. The pandemic made it impossible to visit project sites. There was also the challenge of getting builders to understand the concept of an inclusive housing project. An unexpected challenge came from some parents.
“Most parents had concerns about whether others in the community will accept our children, whether there will be complaints”, explains Meera Balaji, a core member of SCAN. “Some of them were more comfortable with an exclusive facility away from the rest of society. We had to explain the benefits of this approach and reassure them.”
Real estate developer Akshaya Private Ltd has come on board for the inclusive housing project for disabled people. The physical facility is likely to be ready by March next year after which the group homes will be set up. Some families may start moving in from early 2022 itself. There are various pricing options. A one-bedroom flat will cost approximately ₹26 lakh, a two-bedroom ₹44 lakh, and a three-bedroom flat around ₹55 lakh. There are options to share accommodation as well.
The response to the project has been tremendous. Bookings have been double what was expected and SCAN says it expects to reach 100 bookings in the next two months.
Building an inclusive community
Kiran Gupta, a legal professional, is a core team member of the inclusive housing project for disabled people. “SCAN’s plan to set up group homes as a part of the inclusive living Project for continued caregiving of special needs citizen after the demise of their caregiver/parent and also to support families to set up a private trust for the special needs citizen to ensure the availability of financial resources to afford such services greatly intrigued me”.
Another core team member B Narayanswamy adds that the inclusive housing project will enable every disabled resident and their family members to find a sense of purpose. “All the features, amenities, therapy, and vocational centers will enable each special adult to fashion for him-/herself a sense of purpose. It allows their parents to transform into individuals in their own right – and not just forever be in the role of caregiver.
R. Kannan, a finance professional and parent to a child with a disability, found out about the inclusive housing project through social media. “Here comes this Facebook post bout the inclusive community and we immediately fell for it as we began to see light at the end of the tunnel”. He helps the core team in building financial models.
“We quite often forget that we are living in an inclusive community without boundaries and we want this to continue for our wards for a lifetime”, says Kannan. “While we have planted the seed, we have to nurture it as it grows into a tree where we see birds build their nests and humans sitting under it get their wisdom and embrace the special world”.
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