Aspiring bikers Sophia Joe & Richard Joe ready to race up to greater heights
Sophia Joe and Richard Joe are siblings from Kochi who are deaf from birth. Since a young age, they have been pursuing dreams of becoming bike racers. With the support of their parents Joe Francis and Goretti Joe, these young siblings are gearing up to scale newer heights. The family shares many obstacles and hurdles that they had to face to help their children chase their passion for bikes.
For siblings Sophia Joe and Richard Joe, nothing comes in between their determination to chase dreams, not even a disability. Both Sophia and Richard are deaf since birth, but these youngsters have already made their mark through their unique ventures. Ardent bikers, 25 year old Sophia and 23 year old Richard got their rider’s license when they were 18 years old. Though the siblings and their father Joe Francis, who is their biggest supporter, had to beat many obstacles to obtain this, they are glad that they can pursue their passion for riding now.
Joe remembers that both his children expressed their love for bikes at a very young age. Since he used to take them around everywhere in his bike and car, young Sophia and Richard were interested in automobiles. They even started learning basics when they were hardly 14 years old. Once they became adults, both of them expressed their interest to become bike racers. But Joe was unaware of the many obstacles that they will have to face to obtain a license.
When I approached the Regional Transport Office in Kochi, they mocked me saying that a deaf person cannot get a license. ENT doctors refused to give them eligibility certificates. But I was not ready to back off. I went to Trivandrum medical college where I again had to face rejections. Sophia and Richard passed the audiology test, and finally a doctor approved them. The lady doctor even told me that my kids should be racing in a track now and wished us good luck. Her words gave me more confidence-Joe Francis.
Soon enough, both Sophia and Richard passed their driver’s license test in flying colours. Sophia even became Kerala’s first deaf woman to get a driver’s license.
But Joe’s hurdles did not end there. He was in the lookout for an academy where his children can train in racing. Since there were no racing academies in Kerala, Joe looked out for other centres in South India. But none of the racing academies in Bengaluru, Chennai or Coimbatore were ready to take in deaf people. “People there used to mock at me when I ask them if I can admit my kids. I still remember one trainer who told me that a blind person can be on a racing track, but not a deaf person. His statement shocked me. I felt deeply hurt”, says Joe.
That is when Joe came across Bengaluru based Apex Racing Academy. The CEO Anil Kumar was glad to have them and did not have to think twice before admitting Sophia and Richard. Now, the family attends weekend classes at Coimbatore which is five hours away from Kochi where they live. Sophia and Richard are now awaiting to complete their Level 3 after which they will get their professional racing licenses.
Sophia is currently pursuing her studies in fashion technology and Richard is doing animation. Apart from their racing venture, these siblings are actors and models as well. Their movie Shabdam was released last year where Richard played Sophia’s son on-screen. They have also taken part in many shows to walk the ramp and attended other fashion events as well. Sophia was the first runner-up of Miss Deaf India 2014 and represented India in Miss Deaf World competition at Czechoslovakia.
Joe says that his children have faced discrimination many times. Joe recollects how Sophia, who was a winner of the Kerala Youth Icon Special Jury Award was denied her prize money of Rs 50,000 because she had a disability. While all the other winners got the prize money, officials denied it for Sophia pointing out lack of funds.
“People have abused us for supporting our kids with their negative attitudes. Children with disabilities must not be confined to the four walls of their homes. They need support of parents to come out and explore the world. There are so many hidden talents in these youngsters. They are very precious. Their attitude is their fuel to move ahead in life”, says Joe.
Supporting her children and husband is Goretti Joe. “Even today, society refuse to accept children with disabilities as one amongst them. As parents, it is our duty to stand by our children through thick and thin. Whether you have a disability or not, every person loves to be recognised and appreciated”, says Goretti.
Even though Joe and Goretti are extremely supportive of their children’s dreams, they find it hard to financially support them since both of them have retired from their jobs. “In order to support them more, we need financial help. We are looking out for sponsors who can help Sophia and Richard pursue their dreams”, says Joe.
You can contact Joe Francis at +91 98952-71132.
Watch in Sign Language
Support us to make NewzHook Sustainable – Make a Contribution Today
We need your continued support to enable us work towards Changing Attitudes towards Disability. Help us in our attempt to share the voices of people with disabilities that enable them to participate in the society on an equal footing!