From the desk of President

Our 1st milestone, many more to come

Playing the role of a facilitator between the non-government organisations (NGOs) and the corporate houses to help bringing a social renaissance, The Bridge India India is proud to have completed the first anniversary of its journey. The seventh edition of our e-magazine celebrates our first milestone, which was not possible without the support of our President, advisers, readers, partners and most importantly The Bridge India India team.
Born on December 2017 with the objective to work in unison with social change makers and responsible business houses to help bringing transformative solutions to social developmental issues, The Bridge India India has grown significantly in the last one year to become one of the most sought-after social consulting firms.
With the kind of associations we are building in both the corporate and the NGO sectors as well as in the government to work together in synergy to transform the lives of the underprivileged, we are confidently moving ahead to metamorphose into a leading national social consulting firm in the years to come.
Over the past one year, detailed discussions with the stakeholders and field trips made by our team have revealed that there exists a communication gap between the NGOS and the corporate sector. That gap is posing a challenge for both the sectors to come together and work in tandem to transform the lives of the downtrodden.

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The gap is bound to be there as the orientation of both the sectors is completely different. One is “for profit” sector, and another working “not for profit”. Also, we came across several individuals and smaller organisations, which are doing exemplary work to bring about a positive difference in the lives of the less privileged. Though they are operating on small scales, they are making a significant contribution to the society.
The Bridge India India took it upon itself to address the issue of trust deficit between the NGOs and the corporate sector as well as acknowledge the yeoman services being done by smaller organisations by highlighting their works and giving them a platform to scale up their services.
Over a period of one year, we have organised a panel discussion — participated by who’s who of the sectors concerned – to bridge the trust deficit between NGOs and the corporate sector, conducted a training programme on Result Based Management for capacity building of the NGOs and reached out to communities to understand their challenges.
We also launched The Bridge India India e-magazine on May 31, 2017, which focuses on social initiatives of the government, challenges being faced by NGOs, the impact of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of the responsible business houses, the journey of unsung heroes in bringing a change in the society and other related development happenings.
Today, our readership base has reached 5,000 with people from various sectors, including NGOs, corporate firms, bilateral agencies and government, as well as researchers and academicians appreciating our effort.
However, this is just a small beginning and we look forward to bring continued and sustainable solutions to the most pressing needs of the society — education, health, livelihood, gender inequality and disability – with the support of our stakeholders who have reposed their faith on The Bridge India India team.
We know it is not a cake walk to transform the society and like every start-up, we do face the challenges of funds and manpower. However, at the same time, we also know that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” and we will not stop till the goal is reached.
This edition is focused on disability. We have highlighted the issues being faced by divyangs as well as the government initiatives undertaken for the sector. Also we bring to light the works being done by non-government organisations for people with special needs and the impact made by corporate through their CSR initiatives.

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Inclusivity in corporate culture: Enabling the differently-abled

By Choudhary Sandeep

As per Census 2011, India is home to 2.68 crore people with disability, which makes it 2.21 per cent of the total 121 crore population.
While differently-abled people battle multiple challenges with regard to people’s attitudes, acceptance and inclusion, lack of access to good quality education and employment keep many from being financially independent.
However, of late, various corporate firms have come forward to champion the cause of people with disabilities through their CSR activities. The Bridge India India profiles some such notable companies, which are not only enabling the differently-abled but are also becoming an inspiration for other corporate firms to emulate them and become a harbinger of change.

Cochin Shipyard Limited (CSL)

A public sector undertaking (PSU) under the administrative control of the Shipping Ministry, the Cochin Shipyard Ltd’s CSR initiatives include interventions in healthcare, environment, Swachh Bharat, education, providing aid during natural disasters and providing employment to handicapped.
As part of its efforts to bring a change in the lives of the differently-abled, CSL has been taking a number of steps from time to time.
“The Cochin Shipyard has taken up a project to support 50 physically challenged poor people, identified by the Social Justice Department, at Thrissur in Kerala. It has provided them electric tri-cycle manufactured by the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation. These tri-cycles, fitted with water proof boxes with lock provided, are expected to bring about livelihood development,” MD Verghese, Head-CSR of CSL, said.
“The CSL has also agreed to support NGOs — Ashwas Vocational Training for Mentally Challenged at Kanjirappally and Sevaniketan Thiruhridaya Nivas School at Changanacherry — to set up a Sensory Therapy centre for children with special needs in Kerala,” Verghese, who is also the Chief General Manager (Industrial Relations and Administration), added.

Stress upon Skill development

The Microsoft believes that advancements in technology can be a force multiplier in unlocking solutions for some of the biggest challenges being faced by the society. It was this belief that led Microsoft to launch a USD 25 million AI (artificial intelligence) project to benefit one billion-plus people with disabilities around the world.
The company believes that AI can be a game changer for people with disabilities. “We are already witnessing this as people with disabilities expand their use of computers to hear, see and reason with impressive accuracy. At Microsoft, we have been putting to work stronger solutions such as real-time speech-to-text transcription, visual recognition services and predictive text functionality. AI advances like these offer enormous potential by enabling people with vision, hearing, cognitive, learning, mobility disabilities and mental health conditions do more in three specific scenarios: employment, modern life and human connection,” the company said.

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Globally, only one in 10 people with disabilities has access to assistive technologies and products. By making AI solutions more widely available, Microsoft believes, technology can have a broad impact on this important community.
In a letter to shareholders, customers, partners and employees earlier this year, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella pointed out that the company’s products and services are accessible to meet the needs of all customers, including over 1 billion people with disabilities around the world.
“We have invested in accessibility of both Office 365 and Windows 10, setting a new bar of accessibility for blind and low vision users, including our new Eye Control feature in Windows 10 in beta for people with ALS, and Seeing AI, a free US app on iOS for the blind which narrates the world around you,” Nadella wrote.

Aditya Birla Group

A huge business conglomerate, Aditya Birla Group’s CSR activities are not limited to just one sector. The CSR activities of the group focus on the all-round development of the communities around its plants located mostly in distant rural areas and tribal belts. The main focus areas of the group are healthcare, education, sustainable livelihood, infrastructure and espousing social causes.
As part of its CSR activities, the group has undertaken a number of initiatives. Some of them which are providing financial support for cochlear implant surgery for 50 deaf and mute children in the age group of 0-5 years, distributing artificial limbs to over 5,000 physically challenged persons in Karnataka and Lucknow to make them self-reliant.
Besides, it has collaborated with the Vision Foundation of India to provide sight to visually-impaired. Under this collaboration, about 6,600 nearly blind people have been cured.

Jindal Saw Ltd

The Jindal Saw as part of its CSR initiative has set up Svayam, which works towards making public infrastructure like transportation modes, tourism and heritage sites, education and employment accessible to those living with disability or reduced mobility.
Founded in 2000, Svayam has emerged as one of India’s leading organisation dedicated towards the cause of differently-abled and bringing all stakeholders on a single platform to create a barrier-free and inclusive world.
The organisation also collaborates with different government departments and other corporate houses to incorporate user-friendly infrastructure and services in their working environment for the differently-abled.

The way forward

Every sector of the society needs to join hands to work towards social inclusiveness of the differently-abled. While the corporate sector is doing its bit, the general public should also change their perception towards divyangs, which can only bring an actual change in the society.

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Bringing a change in the lives of differently-abled’

By The Bridge India India Correspondent

The passage of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 has brought a paradigm shift in the working of NGOs in this sector. There was a time when only a handful of NGOs were there for the differently-abled and their work was also limited to distributing wheel chairs and other aids. However, with time and introduction of various initiatives to uplift the lives of persons with disabilities (PwDs), awareness has increased among the masses regarding their issues. Today, PwDs are not looked upon as ‘disabled’ but as ‘people with special abilities’. This change of perception has been brought in by various campaigns undertaken by social and government sectors as well as the Disability Act. Today there exist different NGOs for addressing different issues of disability. For instance, while some NGOs are working for advocacy, some are working for multiple and intellectual disability. There are some which are working towards providing employment opportunities to divyangs, whereas few are working towards providing residential facilities to people with special needs who have no one to look after them when they are no more. The Bridge India India visits some NGOs, which are working towards the causes of differently-abled, and brings to its readers a first-hand account of their yeoman’s service.

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Khushboo

Founded in 1995, Gurugram-based NGO Khushboo works for children, adolescents and adults with special conditions such as cerebral palsy, down syndrome, autism, mental retardation and slow learners. It helps them to become self-reliant through therapeutic interventions and life skills development.
The organisation runs a day care centre for children with multiple disabilities and also operates a community-based rehabilitation programme. Each child under their care has an individual development plan based on their disability type and learning ability. The children are grouped as per age and learning ability and formed into a class where a special educator along with an assistant teacher and a helper impart life skills development training to them. Khushboo is now all set to come up with a residential facility in Tauru town, 40 km from Gurugram, which will address the issue of taking care of people with special needs when there are none to look after them.

The Leprosy Mission Trust India

The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) focuses on disability prevention and management, skill development, social protection, education, sustainable livelihood, women empowerment and policy level advocacy.
The organisation encourages leprosy-affected people to come together as disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and advocate for themselves and influence decision-makers at all levels.

NCPEDP

Once persons with disabilities become physically independent, employment can empower them to attain financial independence. Set up in 1996, the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) is one such trust, which is working to empower PwDs through employment opportunities. It also works for the rights of women with disabilities.
“There was a common perception among policy makers and the public at large that disability issues are to be viewed in terms of charity and welfare or in terms of aids and pensions. These are important but not empowering. We are the first organisation that came up with the thought of providing employment opportunities to PwDs to empower them. We have collaborated with corporate firms for proving them jobs,” says Arman Ali, executive director of the NCPEDP.
However, finding job opportunity for PwDs in rural areas is a huge challenge, he says.
“Though the government provides universal education, the real challenge for PwDs to access jobs is inaccessibility to education due to various factors such as lack of user-friendly transportation and availability of wheelchairs,” the NCPEDP executive director adds.
He rues that there are accessibility to PwDs in terms of ramps at malls and cinema halls only and says the authority has to move beyond this.
Ali says even though the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 has been passed, there is a challenge to create awareness among PwDs that there exists a law in their favour. Besides, the political will to implement the law is much required.
Underlining the contribution of late Javed Abidi, India’s global face of disability rights movement who played a key role in the passage of the disability law, Ali says as a former NCPEDP director he was “instrumental in bringing issues pertaining to various disabilities under an umbrella organisation and ensuring greater visibility”. Abidi strived to make educational resources, employment opportunities and public spaces more accessible for PwDs, he says, adding that he “contributed immensely to shift the conversation around disability from welfare and paternalistic approach to one that was grounded in rights and freedoms”.

Cheshire Home India-Delhi Unit

Set up in 1957, Cheshire Home India-Delhi Unit works towards changing the mindset of society towards PwDs and providing a sense of equality to differently-abled people by promoting their mainstreaming and social inclusion. The core activity of the organisation is to provide shelter to destitute and disabled people to help them live a dignified life. However, with time the organisation has grown into a comprehensive centre providing need-based services, including facilitation of special education, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, to children and adults with disabilities.
“At present, 79 members from the PwD community are residing in our shelter home along with a host of dedicated staff to look after them. We are also running a learning centre where 70 physically and mentally disabled children from slums of Delhi are taught life skills. Besides, we are in the process of establishing a livelihood programme for differently-abled people,” says a representative of the organisation.

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Creating an inclusive society for divyangs

Aiming at making an inclusive society where equal opportunities and access are present for persons with disabilities (PwDs) to lead a productive, safe and dignified life, the government has initiated a series of schemes. The Bridge India India Editor-in-Chief Seema Jairath interacts with Vikash Prasad, Director in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, elaborates on the initiatives undertaken by the government to make India a better place for divyangs to live in.

TBI: Please tell us about the initiatives taken by the government for persons with disabilities (PwDs).

Vikash Prasad: The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan (Accessible India Campaign) that will enable PwDs to gain access for equal opportunity and live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life in an inclusive society.
The campaign aims at making a user-friendly environment, transport system and Information and communication ecosystem for PwDs.

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The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 also categorically provides for non-discrimination in transport, road and in-built environment for divyangs.
A multi-pronged strategy is adopted for the campaign with key components such as leadership endorsements, mass awareness, capacity building through workshops, interventions through legal framework, technology solutions and resource generation, and leveraging corporate sector efforts in a public-private partnership. In the transport sector, our focus is to make public buses divyang-friendly so that they can board the vehicles comfortably and have a secure journey. The DEPwD has given a target to the State Transport Department to make 25 per cent of their buses accessible to PwDs by March 2019.
Besides, we have collaborated with the ministries of Health and Women and Child Development for an initiative for early detection of children having intellectual and other disabilities.
The first six years of a child’s life is crucial for detection of any disability. Early detection and proper therapeutic training can help them lead a normal life. The government has also set up a national-level institute for research and training on sign language in Delhi. Also, a 3,000-word dictionary of sign language has been created and published.

TBI: Of late, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) has emerged as a phenomenon of change in every sector in the country. What facilities are you providing to the divyangs through ICT?

VP: As far as ICT is concerned, our focus area is to make government websites user-friendly for persons affected with visual, hearing and other disabilities. All the State Government bodies have been instructed to upgrade their websites so that PwDs can access them independently without anybody’s help.
Work is on to make over 900 websites pan-India accessible to divyangs. A total of 200 websites have already been made accessible. The rest of the websites will be made accessible in six months time.

TBI: Please give us an overview of the Skill Development programme for PwDs.

VP: The National Action Plan for skill training of PwDs aims at providing vocational training and employment opportunities to divyangs so that they can earn their livelihood and attain financial independence.
The plan envisages use of Information Technology for content, training delivery and employer connect.
Under the plan, the government has collaborated with 250 training partners to impart skill training to PwDs across India. The job roles have been selected in such a manner that they are conducive to divyangs.
In the first two years of its launch in 2015, more than 90,000 PwDs have been trained. Many of them are placed in big companies like Make My Trip, Lemon Tree and Oberoi Hotels.

TBI: Please tell us about the scholarship programmes for PwDs.

VP: There are several scholarship programmes for PwDs, like pre-matric and post-matric. Under the pre-matric scheme, financial assistance is provided to parents of students with disabilities for studying at pre-matric level. The financial assistance includes scholarship, book grant and escort or reader allowance. The number of scholarships granted under this category is 46,000 each year. Similarly, the post-matric scheme provides financial assistance to parents of divyang students for studying at post-matric level. There is scholarship for students in top class universities like IIM, AIIMS, etc. Besides, there is a fellowship programme in which University Grants Commission (UGC) grants scholarships to divyangs for pursuing M Phil and PhD courses.
Besides, the National Overseas Scholarship for Students with Disabilities provides financial assistance for pursuing studies abroad at post graduation and doctorate levels.
Last year, we have also launched an initiative under which financial assistance is provided to premiere coaching institutions to impart coaching to students with disabilities for entrance and competitive examinations.
Maintenance allowance, book and stationary allowance and grant for purchase of assistive devices are credited to the student’s account. Non-refundable fees are reimbursed to the student on production of proof of deposit of fees or are paid directly to the institute after intimating the student.

TBI: Is there any programme for PwDs in the field of sports?

VP: Yes. We have started a new initiative — Centre of Excellence for Disability Sports – under which every state will have a sport centre having state-of-the-art infrastructure where PwDs will be trained in various sports, including swimming, athletics and basketball, for national and international events.

TBI: What steps are being taken to create public awareness about PwDs?

VP: We disseminate information about our initiatives through print and electronic media as well as through social media like Facebook and Twitter.
We also conduct regular zonal awareness workshops for sensitising all stakeholders like government officials, engineers, architects, real estate developers, students and others.
We have also initiated a scheme called Awareness Generation and Publicity Scheme under which the government give funds to NGOs for conducting mass awareness programmes about schemes for PwDs.

TBI: Are there any scheme for women with disability in rural areas?

VP: Yes. Under the Assistance to Disabled Persons (ADIP) scheme, we hold camps at remote areas where assessments of PwDs are done. Accordingly, we assist the needy disabled persons in procuring durable aids and appliances that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation by reducing the effects of disabilities and enhance their economic potential.

TBI: Is there any residential facility for orphan divyang children?

VP: There are a few schemes like the Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS), which runs residential schools where orphan children with disabilities can stay and pursue their education till the age of 18.

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THE UNSUNG HEROES

” I salute the indomitable spirit of all persons with disabilities. They are our heroes,” tweeted PM Narendra Modi on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. As the country endeavors towards an inclusive society where differently-abled persons are brought into the mainstream. The Bridge India India celebrates the perspective, grit and invincible approach of these special souls who defied all odds and turned their lives into a message to the society. They not only turned their life into a celebration but are making a remarkable contribution towards making the world a much better place to work and live in. Ritesh Tomar, Ira Singhal and Sonu Bhola share their remarkable journey with team The Bridge India India.

Focus on the positives of the child rather than the disability: Ira Singhal

Ira Singhal, topped UPSC’s Civil Services Examination in 2015 to become the first physically challenged woman to top the civil services exam in the general category. She has become role model for people with special abilities.

TBI: You completed your engineering from NSIT and then became an IAS officer. Were there any challenges you came across during this journey?

IS: I think the biggest challenge while preparing for IAS is to keep yourself focused on the goal. I had to tell myself everyday that you’re preparing for something and you don’t know what’s going to happen. You’ve no idea what your result is going to be and your efforts may go in vain, completely. So, working for something without having any kind of guarantee whether you’re going to get results or not was the toughest and most challenging part. Also, not listening to anybody else telling you what your capabilities are was a challenge. But I was lucky that since childhood I was trained for that. I never cared what others think about me because I believe nobody knows yourself as well as you know yourself. Still, it is tough for most of the people specially having such people around you who keep telling you that you can’t do it or you don’t have it in you. I think these are the biggest challenges I have faced.

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TBI: You’ve worked in the corporate world as well. Did you face any challenges working there?

IS: Corporate is all about proving yourself every day. Corporate is little fast paced; your decisions have to be a lot faster; the perspective that you need to think from is a little different. I didn’t really find it challenging, I loved my job. My company was really nice and I got to do a lot of things. I actually got opportunities to work on all kinds of projects, be it HR projects, be it Finance projects, be it Operations, Sales, Marketing and everything. I did everything in my one year. I did innovations, launches, I even designed boxes that carry chocolates from distributor to the retailer. I quit because I needed something which is a little more directly connected to people.

TBI: Do you think corporate world should or could do something that will be useful for people with special abilities?

IS: Corporate tend to look for people who are more outgoing and a lot more confident in the face and that is the problem with most kids with disabilities. Kids with disabilities are convinced of their incompetence throughout their life. The world has told them that they’re not good enough. They have the potential but they are unable to see it themselves and that’s why they’re not able to bring it out during interviews. And in the corporate sector, unfortunately, you’re hired on the basis of small interviews. Hence the talent that they have stays inside. So, maybe corporate need to make a bit more effort to give opportunities to such people and help them explore their own potential. I understand that it is a profit-making business but corporate can experiment and invest in more people just to take a chance. It might cost them a little more money in the beginning. I wish corporate to be a little more bold and kinder. Instead of judging them on 30-minute interview, they can give them a little more time and fair opportunity to prove themselves.

TBI: There are more opportunities in the urban areas then in rural. What do you think can be done for people with different abilities in rural areas by the government, corporate or society?

IS: I think it’s not just about people with disabilities but for all people living in rural areas. As a country, we’re still not able to reach out to them. As an office, even while working in Delhi, one of the biggest challenges we face is the shortage of manpower. We actually run at very small capacities. India has one of the lowest citizens to government employee ratios in the world and even at that we have large number of vacancies. Because of which there are not enough people for us to go down to the last citizen and help them out. So, from our end we try and do as much as we can but that is where the corporate or the citizens can help out. One can take up a particular area and choose a couple of government schemes and aware as much people as they can. Help them register to the schemes or to fill out forms correctly. Small efforts like this can also bring a big difference.

TBI: Rights of person with disabilities act 2016 has not reached many, your comments on that?

IS: I think it is a very good initiative but there’s still a long way to go. The problem with disability centers is that you can’t solve it with laws, you need to solve it by creating social, accessible structures, creating a mindset within the families of people with disability and their society. That’s what will bring the change. Still, this is a good beginning, there are so many disabilities which were never even classified as disabilities there is recognition for people of all kinds and there is an effort to create an equal platform to bring in as many people as possible and give them the support system, for example, recognizing mental disabilities now makes the doctors also sit up and notice. Autism as a disorder was never diagnosed, dyslexia was never diagnosed.
The biggest thing that needs to change is the perspective about the family towards their children. Stop thinking that your child is not capable. It starts from the parents, the child will start thinking he is capable if the parents do that, parents need to stop being ashamed of the child. What is needed is you expose the child to controlled social environment, expose the child to small social groups/outings and slowly that child will adjust to the society. Secondly, you have to try and focus on the positives of the child, the ability of the child rather than disability.

TBI: You’ve become an inspiration to many children. Would you like to give any message or suggestion to them?

IS: One thing I would like to tell children is to keep things in perspective. What happens is we sometimes prioritize studies over sports or sports over studies, which is wrong. A balance between them is very important. You shouldn’t be fixated on only one of these two. I understand this because in my childhood, my father used to send me out to play on daily basis even during the examination days. For me, studies were kept as a perspective where I had to participate in everything`. The one message I would like to give them is not to worry and try to achieve everything so quickly. It will burn you out. While you’re young you have the time to explore and do so many things. So, invest in it and participate in as many things as you can. Don’t be shy, in the long run it doesn’t matter if you had done a few things incorrectly or made a few mistakes. What matters is what you’ve learned.

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More support & cooperation is required from the society: Sonu Bhola

A sports enthusiast and a para athlete shooting player, with mobility disability Sonu Bhola shares his journey and talks about the need of social inclusion for the differently-abled.

TBI: Please share the initial years of your journey?

SB: I was not much aware about the entitlement and opportunities that we had during my early age, hence could hardly avail any. Undergoing primary education in an inclusive school, I could continue studies as an average student though was never a scholar. One came across many issues during the growing years which we started addressing after creating an organization in 2001 with likeminded young guys from east Delhi and slowly we started working over advocacy. The organization got registered with Govt of Delhi in 2005.I remember while I was a student, someone from Dist. Social Welfare office cheated me over my scholarship. It was through my advocacy activities that I got the money of around Rs 1,800 to get admission into the first year of graduation for commerce course at DU.

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TBI: How was the world like for you while you grew as a child?

SB: My world was mostly home and school. I never went out of these two locations for most of the time. Till class 8 I continued in the same school. In class 9 after admission into another school, I started moving to other locations as for tuition and computer classes. It is then that I started knowing more about social things which continued till class 12. After getting enrolled into the school of open learning at Delhi University for Commerce course, I came across so many diverse situations unlike the school times. Specially in comparison with the primary school, where there was no change in infrastructure and other co related things. I started advocacy at this point of time and created a group of young minds to start working over supporting each other and the needy persons with disabilities. So it was a turning point after finishing school education.

TBI: How supportive have the society and environment been to you? What were the challenges you faced?

SB: The biggest challenge is acceptance into the society. Persons with disability can do certain things independently, however people want to help and assist irrespective of the fact whether it is required or not. However, after the Pulse Polio Program became a National Plan, people’s thought changed towards persons with disabilities.
With regards to environment, which is still not accessible, it has always been thought to orient the government officials towards the actual need of persons with disabilities. So with the help of our groups we reported many things related to disabilities and started writing sort of compliant to newly constituted Commissioner Disabilities office for making certain premises accessible. After few attempts, we could succeed making Post office, bank and school, social welfare office, electricity office accessible. In few years, we also started getting aids and appliances and other support related with the needs for persons with disabilities.

TBI: When did you realize that you are good at shooting? How did you take to this sport?

SB: For a long time, I used to follow this guy on wheelchair, the one who even got Arjuna Award in shooting. He never allowed me to hold the gun. He would always answer differently over my request to explore a para pistol even while I used to play table tennis. In 2016 we got a message over social media stating that some camp is being organized at West Delhi for Para shooters and it is open to anyone interested from any part of county. The camp was organized by some official of Indian shooting association; I participated in it and scored good. I held the pistol for the first time then. They took us to the National rifle Association of India’s office at Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range which is one of the best shooting ranges in world. This visit was also part of the camp. Soon after this camp, where was pre national event for which all the participants of this camp were allowed to play their first formal match. I took to shooting and played my first event at GV mavalankar Shooting Champion Competition 2016. Till now, I have participated in 3 pre national, 2 national, 3 state level and 5 district level matches. I could score well at the lasst match of Delhi State where I bagged Silver Medal. On the international disability day 2017, Govt of Delhi awarded me with excellence award for para sports persons.

TBI: Do you think presently adequate work is going on in the social sector for the betterment of the specially abled?

SB:There are many activities carried out by the government and even private organizations, but actual beneficiary is still waiting for their entitlements. Unless the support reaches the individual, nothing is going to change. So far, only NGOs and DPOs are getting high into their accounts. There must be some program to approach direct masses without mediators, then only the actual persons with disabilities would feel the real change into the society.

TBI: You have been working extensively for the specially abled. How conducive is the present environment to work for this segment.

SB: I do feel a change in past 15 years of my personal experiences and active working since I myself was hit by polio at the age of 6 months. Yes, present environment including the thought process of society have changed but there is need to let people feel the change, which only government may not do. Equal efforts need to be initiated through all effected people by learning their rights, getting education ready to start working and being sensitive enough upon their duties towards their families and society.

TBI: What are the sore areas when it comes to working on ground?.

SB:The support and cooperation from society is expected more than what it offers at present. Somehow people still believe that persons with disabilities may not do certain things. While working on ground, the support is neglected. People are more interested working for political parties, religious events and cast based events but not for disabilities events. Unfortunately, sometimes even the rehabilitated, settled persons with disabilities do not treat other persons well.

TBI: What is your take about the CSR mandate for the Corporates. Do you think Corporate houses are making a difference in the social sector?

SB: It’s a good tool now a days made visible through various activities that are somehow directly or indirectly effecting the needy ones. The scenario has changed and many corporate houses have their own foundations and sorts of setup widening their umbrella. Still the actual beneficiaries are manipulated with the support of NGOs.

TBI: What is it that you would suggest the government, NGO’s and Corporate to undertake to further facilitate living for the specially abled?

SB:There must be master DATA based on Aadhaar card or any sort of economic background to offer support or to deliver any program on ground, especially for persons with disabilities. This class of society should be seen as rest of the reserved categories in India.
Also, the programs must be run not through NGOs but directly by individuals so as to strengthen the cause properly. Also there must be some sort of system to follow and facilitate persons with disability throughout the cycle, right from education to employment to settlement.

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Differently abled get empathy but not inclusion from society: Ritesh Tomar

Battling with disability since childhood, Ritesh Tomar pursued higher studies in DU. Not only did he excel in academics but his undeterred spirit took him towards making a mark in singing. A known singer and role model to many, Ritesh is an epitome of courage and determination.

TBI: Please share something about your childhood?

RT: I come from a very small village of Uttarakhand and studied in a special school in Dehradun where I spent almost 12 to 13 years. My childhood was not that normal I would say. At a time when parents are on the lookout for schools for their children, my parents were looking for hospitals for the treatment of my disability. The story of the struggle began from there. The problem was there since birth, but was very minor and not perceivable in the beginning. Things were quite normal for me till the 12th year of my life. Then gradually I lost my sight. My parents first attempted to get my eyes recovered. Later, on the suggestion from a teacher, I was put into a special school called NIE PVD – National Institute for the empowerment of person with visual disability.

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TBI: Today you have become hero for many. What have been the challenges while coming up to this stage?

RT: Challenges were many. The biggest challenge comes from the society. They generally treat you with empathy, but their attitude is not inclusive. They do not acknowledge or accept you so easily. Whenever you attempt to make any difference or try to do something, you get a negative response from the society. So the biggest challenge is social, when you get negative feedback about your body, your disability.
Then there are many structural challenges. For example when you go somewhere, in some building, being visually challenged, there are lots of difficulties you face in recognizing the path, the way, the building . So, social and structural challenges were primary all the time.

TBI: Who has been the anchor in your life?

RT: There were many anchors. I keep on changing my heros! My sports teacher and my music teacher were the two anchors of my life in the beginning when I started pursuing education, particularly my music teacher. He has shown great faith on my voice. He was the first one who actually told me that I have a good voice and a nice throat. You can really utilize it and maximize it and become a good singer, he told me then. He was the first one who actually told me that I can do something very good. He was actually the first hero of my life who motivated me to do something for the world.

TBI: As a hero to many, what is your message to them?

RT: Well, my life is the message. I have experienced many challenges and difficulties in my life but I kept working and never gave up and am not going to give up ever. So I always tell my well wishers and friends to keep working even if you fail in doing something even if you are not able to do what is expected from you. Keep working. If you work continuously you will finally succeed one day.

TBI: Where is this inner strength coming from Ritesh?

RT:It comes from the odds and difficulties that you face in life I guess. You always try to win those odds .For which you need constant energy to overcome those difficulties. You will have to be an inner engineer to get away with those challenges. And I guess the required constant energy comes from there, which motivates and inspires you to do something good.

TBI: What according to you NGO’s and government should do to make lives of specially abled better?

RT: We are a developing country. To my understanding, it is imperative that the stakeholders come together and work. Stakeholders who are playing a critical role in the public sector like the State, NGO’s , Corporate. They will have to make collective efforts for the emancipation of marginalized sections. For example, they can give platform in terms of organizing awareness camps for example. they can go to universities where visually impaired are studying and motivate them to do something good. Secondly, NGO’s in particular can finance and support people who are visually impaired or are differently abled as most of them come from very backward families. They might probably have a skill or art but aren’t getting the platform to prove themselves owing to the economic inability. NGO’s should work at the level of economic odds for people with disability and give platform to market their art and skills.

TBI: You have won the hearts of people of Uttarakhand. What is it that you have done for them?

RT:I have been singing since long in Uttarakhand. I always try to sing according to the expectations of my audience. I respect their opinion and value their imagination. Everyone has a genre in singing, so do I have. I have tried to cross my genre and limitation and sing according to the expectation of my audience and connect and relate with the young listeners through my voice and singing. I think it is because of this that I am getting all the love and support from the people of Uttarakhand.

TBI: Throw light on the challenges students who are specially abled face while pursuing higher education.

RT:There are many odds and challenges. The first one is financial, as I already mentioned. Universities are quite expensive now. It’s not easy to get into a university and then pursue education for four five years. Disabled don’t get family support for a long time because they are not considered as cultural capital. The way an able bodied is considered to be bringing returns on investment. With the disabled, families don’t have similar perception. Families feel that they won’t get returns from them, so usually the support doesn’t come along.
Secondly, the administration at University campuses is quite biased. I would like to share an experience of mine. One of my papers got selected in one of the very popular western university last year. I couldn’t go there because I couldn’t get funds from the university. If they have to fund say eight to ten people, they would give priority and prefer the able bodied to a disabled. Their perception is that the able bodied would be a better scholar and more functional in terms of delivering the paper, following this bias the disabled are unable to get funds from the universities. Here CSR can play a very constructive role. It can help the differently abled university students in particular those aspiring for higher education or civil services with coaching. Or for the scholars willing to present paper in foreign universities and unable to do so due to financial limitations, the CSR can play a very constructive and creative role.

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Development Happenings

By The Bridge India India Correspondent

The Nipman Foundation-Microsoft Equal Opportunity Awards- 5 th Edition

The Nipman Foundation-Microsoft Equal Opportunity Awards 2018 took place on 16th November in the presence of the Hon’ble Minister Mr. Hardeep Puri, Minister of State (Independent Charge), Housing & Urban Affairs, Govt. of India.T he awards in their fifth addition now, received 200 applications across 7 categories and were judged by an independent jury. The winners under different categories were :

  • Innovation (Technology): BleeTV and Ask Blee (BleeTech Innovations Pvt Ltd), Eye-D (GingerMind Technologies Pvt Ltd), XL Cinema (Brajma Intelligent System Pvt Ltd.)
  • Innovation (Non – Technology): District Red Cross Society (Panchkula Haryana), Mitti Café, White Print
  • Employment of PwDs: Mirchi and Mime (Square Meal Foods), Wipro Ltd
  • Inclusive Schools: Balvantray Mehta Vidya Bhawan Anguridevi Shersing Memorial Academy, Shradhanjali Integrated School (Association of People with Disability), St. Xavier’s College (Mumbai)
  • Architects and Design Firms promoting Universal Access Design (UAD): Access For All, Nature Nurture Architects and Planners
  • Entrepreneur with a Disability: Dr. Lalithkumar Natarajan, Ms. Shenaz Haveliwala
  • Professional with a Disability: Mr. Narsappa Vagathali

Global IT challenge for youth with disabilities

By Lakshmi Singh

LG Electronics, a consumer durable major in India has partnered with Rehabilitation International Korea (RI Korea) to organize the 8th annual Global IT Challenge for Youth with Disabilities (GITC) in India. The event was co hosted by Ministry of Health and Welfare (Korea), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (Govt of India). LG Electronics has been organizing the Global IT Challenges for youth with disabilities since 2011 in association with RI Korea to help eradicate the digital divide among young people with special needs and help establish a foundation for social advancement for them.
The Challenge was focused on strategies for strengthening IT skills of youth with disabilities as a critical requirement for enhancing their access to information and communication services on an equal basis with others. It was held with a total of four events including e-Tool Challenge to evaluate the skills of using the MS Office program and e-LifeMap Challenge to evaluate the online information search ability in specific situations. To increase in demand for digital images, LG Electronics had set up a new e-Contents Challenge, which evaluates video shooting and editing capabilities.
About 100 youth with disabilities (visual disability, hearing disability, locomotor disability and inteallectual disability/developmental disorder) from 18 countries namely, participated in the Global IT Challenge Competition.

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The objective of the Global ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Challenge for Youth with Disabilities was to leverage IT skills among youth with disabilities and also to spread awareness about the application of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in enhancing the quality of life of persons with disabilities especially in Asia-Pacific region.
Speaking at the occasion, Mr. Kim Ki Wan, Managing Director, LG Electronics India said, “We are elated to host GITC( Global IT challenge) for youth with disabilities in India this year. Every year we have seen an encouraging participation from young students and we are positive that this year too it has brought immense value to their lives and help them emerge as future leaders. At LG we have always strived to encourage and influence the society at large to bring a difference and this is an initiative by us, for all the bright young people who are working extremely hard to fulfill their dreams”

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The Bridge India India under its capacity building initiatives organised training on Result Based Management for the NGOs

The Bridge India India looking at the challenges of various NGO’s and the emerging need of the corporate organised 3 days training on Result Based Management (RBM) by an expert.
The training was interactive and had helped the participants to enhance their understanding on project cycle, monitoring & evaluation and reporting. The participants came from different national and international ngos from Delhi, Kolkata & Uttarkashi.
The participants further requested to conduct workshops on different topics viz proposal development, reporting etc which will help them to have deeper understanding of the subject.

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