Education June 24, 2020
Will apply public policy degree to empower India’s disabled population, says Pratishtha Deveshwar
Delhi University student Pratishtha Deveshwar has made history. She is the first Indian in a wheelchair to study at Oxford University. From starting a YouTube channel to using her learnings to help India’s disabled community, she is full of plans as she tells NewzHook.
“I am delighted to inform you that your application to the University of Oxford has been successful.” I read these words in my mailbox again and again until I pinched myself to realise that I was not dreaming! Oxford is calling meeeee!
This Facebook post shares all the thrill, joy and excitement Pratishtha Deveshwar is feeling. The 21-year-old has made history as the first Indian in a wheelchair to study at the prestigious Oxford University. She will be doing a master’s degree in Public Policy.
“The constant marginalisation of people with disabilities is due to lack of inclusive policies”, says Pratishtha, who was disabled in a car accident nine years ago. She has a spinal cord injury and uses a wheelchair. “Policies formulated keeping in mind the needs of the most downtrodden in society will go a long way in empowering them. I applied to Oxford because their course in public policy is among the best in the world”.
Pratishtha was disabled in a road accident
From speaking out on the need for tough road safety laws to the issues faced by disabled women, Pratishtha has the makings of a powerful voice in the disability rights space in India. She made news when she grilled Congress leader Rahul Gandhi about the insensitivity shown by many political leaders towards people with disabilities. The Oxford University degree, she says, is a step in that direction.
I intend to come back to India and use my knowledge for the betterment of 26.8 million people with disabilities who urgently need to be empowered. I also want to prove that my accident or wheelchair do not define me. I wanted to show it to the world that a woman in a wheelchair can achieve anything she dreams of, despite all the hurdles. – Pratishtha Deveshwar
As a young woman with disability, she is also aware of the larger symbolism at play.
Emerging voice in disability rights
“In a country where most children with disabilities never attend schools, this is a milestone for the entire community. People with disabilities have been telling me that this makes them feel that they can dream big too”.
At Oxford, Pratishtha plans to start a YouTube channel for people with disabilities. This is to share her learnings and “show them a world beyond the four walls of their homes” She is also aware of how far she has come from that life changing moment nine years ago.
“I remember telling myself that my accident was the end of my dreams, but it was not. No matter what you are going through in this moment, no matter how difficult, it will pass and there will be a better tomorrow. That is my biggest takeaway from life. It always gets better and we must never lose hope”.
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