North to south, for the cause of PWDs

In a quest to sensitise Indians to the lives of Persons with Disabilities(PWDs), Boniface Prabhu has embarked on a journey that will cover the entire length of the country.

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Boniface – a Padma Shri awardee, and India’s number one wheelchair tennis player and first Paralympic medal winner – set off from Kashmir on November 9 on his way to Kanyakumari, in the ‘Thums Up Veer K2K’ road expedition. On Tuesday, the quadriplegic athlete passed through Gurgaon. He interacted with around 200 people, all members of the city’s corporate community, teaching them the A to Z of sign language.

With this mission – aligned with the Centre’s ‘Accessible India’ initiative – Boniface endeavours to achieve equality for all, by helping bridge the gap between the able-bodied and the differently-abled and specially-abled.

He feels that being a quadriplegic, it was his responsibility to lead the way. “I believe that we cannot make the India of our dreams if we do not leverage the skills and potential of the PWDs,” said the inspirational 44-year-old. “While on one hand, we need to mainstream the PWDs and create opportunities for them, on the other we also need to be sensitive to their unique requirements.”
Debabrata Mukherjee – V-P, marketing & commercial, India & South West Asia, Coca-Cola – flagged off the upcoming leg, from Gurgaon to Jaipur. “Thumbs Up along with partners American India Foundation and Being Human, already run the VEER campaign, which trains PWDs to make them employable. We are now focusing on the softer aspects that help integrate PWDs into the mainstream, guided by the government’s ‘Accessible India’ campaign,” said Mukherjee.

Over the next month and 3,500 kilometres, Boniface will be taking part in more than 50 programs across 14 cities, in which he will be meeting with hundreds of people, including students, government officials and civil society workers, in an effort to increase awareness of the rights, needs and aspirations of PWDs. He also hopes to assist in the training of nearly 10,000 people in sign language.

Over the next month and 3,500 kilometres, Boniface will be taking part in more than 50 programs across 14 cities, in which he will be meeting with hundreds of people, including students, government officials and civil society workers, in an effort to increase awareness of the rights, needs and aspirations of PWDs. He also hopes to assist in the training of nearly 10,000 people in sign language.
According to the 2011 census, there are 26.8 million PWDs in India, of which only 3 percent are gainfully employed. The World Bank estimates that by excluding PWDs from the mainstream, India’s economy forfeits between 3 and 7 percent of annual GDP growth.

 

This story was originally published on The Times of India.