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Road trip by disabled people seeks to drive home the message of accessibility

Members of the organisation Group of Special People are driving from New Delhi to Alwar in Rajasthan on retrofitted scooters to spread the importance of accessibility and change perceptions towards people with disabilities.

Under the banner of Freedom Accessible Awareness Ride, over 25 disabled people from the organisation Group of Special People are on a ride from New Delhi to Alwar in Rajasthan.

Riding retrofitted scooters, they started their journey on 25 August and are traveling through small towns and cities to spread the message of accessibility and encourage people with disabilities to come out of the walls of their homes.

The expedition is the brainchild of Gulfam Ahmed, champion powerlifter, model, singer and motivational speaker.

Through our trip, we want to show the possibility of freedom and independence to disabled people living in small town and rural India. In the metros, we take accessibility for granted but in other parts of India, people with disabilities don't even know they can get out of their homes, travel, and work. When we go to these towns, we are asked questions like - "How did you come this far?", "How come you are moving from one place to another?" - Gulfam Ahmed, Trip organiser

Being out there and visible with their disability, say participants, will encourage more disabled people to venture out of their homes and explore ways to become independent. " In one place we stopped at, this elderly woman brought her disabled son out of the house and pointed our group out", says Gulfam.

Lack of accessibility, he is convinced, is the biggest barrier the community faces. "We need more than just ramps", says Gulfam. "We also need to find ways to change mindsets among disabled and non-disabled people".

Gulfam, who is 29 years old, has borne the expenses of the trip. Riding with him are people with different kinds of physical disabilities to drive home the message of accessibility. "I have lived like a lion despite my disability and I want to encourage other disabled people to do the same".

One of the participants is Guddu Malik, a wheelchair user with 90% disability due to polio. "As someone from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, I know the kind of challenges we have to come up against". Until recently Guddu used to walk with the support of his hands. Meeting other disabled people in Delhi changed his attitude towards life. "I want to do all the things that non-disabled people."

Sanjeev Kumar, an Army jawan, agrees and says the only way to encourage the disabled community to emerge from challenges is to actually go out and motivate them. Sanjeev was disabled in the 2002 Kargil War.

"My aim is to motivate disabled people and to rally them together to fight for themselves. This drive is a step towards that".

ALSO READ: Have a dream? Go for it - My Take by Gulfam Ahmed, winner of 23 medals in national, state-level events



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