#DisabilityInfluencers- Preetha Thonnakkal uses social media to raise awareness about the disabled community
In our month long campaign #DisabilityInfluencers, today we feature Preetha Thonnakkal from Kerala. Preetha, who is a wheelchair user, believes in living life to the fullest. Her videos on TikTok app and Facebook are an instant hit. Preetha hopes to use the power of social media to the fullest to create awareness about disabilities.
One summer day in April last year, Preetha Thonnakkal was idling away her time. While going through her phone, she spotted a few TikTok videos that interested her. Within no time, Preetha decided to try her luck in it. She did her first Malayalam TikTok video which was later uploaded on Facebook. It became an instant hit. Preetha soon realised the power of the app in reaching out to a large audience. Today, she does TikTok videos that are uploaded on her Facebook page to a huge fan following. Preetha hopes to next make videos that will create awareness on disabilities.
Life after disability
Preetha was diagnosed with Scoliosis while pursuing her pre-degree studies. She was hardly 21 years old. Later, she became paraplegic and started using a wheelchair. She currently runs her own small scale business of making paper pens and necklaces at home. She learnt them by watching YouTube videos. Currently, she lives with her mother in Thiruvananthapuram, state capital of Kerala. Her family’s support is what leads her through the right path.
“Initially, I used to feel disheartened about my fate. During those days, we did not have a phone or TV at home. So, my main source of entertainment was hearing the radio and reading books. Once I happened to come across a TV show where they were teaching how to make organdie flowers. I decided to give it a try and that is how I started making things on my own sitting at home. It gave me a new lease of life. Now I am independent and supporting my mother too”, says Preetha.
An ardent social media fan
Preetha used Facebook as a platform to reach out to her customers who were interested in her hand made products. Though Preetha loved scrolling through TikTok videos, she never realised that she would love doing them so much.
I started doing TikTok videos for time pass. Moreover, I was not scared nor had anything to lose. There are a lot of people who might think negative of a disabled person doing videos on the app. But who cares? It is fun for me and it makes me happy too. I do not get tensed. This is all about relaxation. The positive comments makes me happy.
Her next plan is to put up 100 Facebook inspiring posts for the next 100 days. “I want to focus more on disabilities and awareness which I hope to do in the next few days using the power of social media. The posts are going to be my life experiences and so on”, she says.
Tryst with TikTok as a person with disability
Some of Preetha’s videos have crossed over 2000 views. She has done more than 300 videos since last April. Ever since then, she has been getting a lot of positive reviews. Some popular groups and social media stars are also following Preetha on Facebook. Most of her videos are done in Malayalam though she has tried her luck with Tamil too.
“I plan to do some motivational videos next in TikTok. It is going to be an experiment. But I’am nervous and a little scared too. I have done a few videos on how to take care of elderly people. Let us see how it goes. Once I did a video of cleaning my house and someone came and asked me how a wheelchair user can do it. I told them that nothing is impossible for disabled people if they have a will power”, says Preetha.
This 40-year-old also wants to create videos focusing on lack of accessibility in public places.
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