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Disability to Inclusivity – Journey of an Extraordinary.
India has been witnessing a continual change in the attitude, definition and rights of the disabled since 1912. The Government of India has created policies around special education since the country’s independence in 1947. Some of them being The Rehabilitation Act of 1992 and The Persons with Disability Act, 1995 which enables the disabled community to overcome their right-related challenges. The recently held 2009 Lok Sabha election was the first of its kind national election in which wooden ramps were set up for the differently-abled and Braille signs were included on EVM machines for the blind.
During my college days I remember reading - “The only disability is a bad attitude” and I believe that any battle could be won just by seeing the brighter side of it. This holds very true for Mansoor, who I recently met. Mansoor was not born disabled. At a young age, he suffered the brunts of a medical negligence and became physically challenged.
Mansoor, the Marketing officer in the Communications and Fundraising department of Association of People with Disability, Bengaluru is their beneficiary-turned-employee. Considering the fact that he has loco-motor disability, earning a decent livelihood was a big challenge for him. Not yielding to shortcomings, he started his journey to become financially independent by opening a Lassi shop at Tannery Road, Bengaluru. Making a mark through his commerce background, he stepped into the corporate world as a sales professional and later as a recruiter. Post his 7 years stint with the corporate world, at both India and abroad, his journey as a fundraiser began with volunteering at APD. His journey hasn’t been a cakewalk, yet his self-confidence motivated him to see only the positive side of his journey.
Sharing with you some interesting excerpts from the conversation I had with Mansoor.
Navendu : Mansoor, you have raised funds for APD in the previous editions of TCS World 10K event. What are your plans for this year?
Mansoor : Last year I planned to raise Rs 15 lakh but could achieve only Rs 9,93,686/-.This year I am planning to achieve last year’s feat. To achieve my target, I will reach out to the APD staff, general public and every individual i come across. I will talk to them about the programs and works of APD, therapies we give, about Shradhanjali Integrated School (a school which allows inclusive education under the same roof) and our mobility aids.
Navendu : Tell me something about your journey as a fundraiser.
Mansoor : I took up fundraising because one can’t stop by doing it just once! It is a challenging and an ongoing process. It pushes me to do better each time when i set out as a fundraiser. This year I am raising funds for a colleague who has lost his arm in a mishap. We will empower him with a substitute by operation and 2 year medicine support for which the cost will come upto Rs 20 lakh.
A few years back, to spend time with my new born baby, I took a break from work. My son, who is 3 years old now, made me realize the importance of building relationships. In a way, it helped me to come out of corporate sector which was more or less a mechanical set-up wherein I just worked for hours looking forward to my salary. After having a 7 year stint at the corporate sector, I started to volunteer with APD and continued to understand their process of working before joining them as a full timer. Volunteering with them, I figured out that there are many problems but solutions are little. This motivated me to put their existing resources into better use even when they were scarce and that is where I came in as a fundraiser.
As a part of my work, I keep strengthening the corporate support for the APD’s programs. Corporate firms need budget and proposals in advance. The budget to fundraise for the programs of APD is prepared with the help of the field workers which proves the idea of inclusiveness in real. This also ensures that the resources raised are for the most right reasons and will be utilized to the fullest.
Although physically disabled, I participate in the marathon every year. I encourage people by saying that if I can do it, so can they! This has helped me reach out to more people and generate funds.
Navendu : How were the funds raised with the help of TCS platform utilised last year ?
Mansoor : Last year I raised Rs 9,93,686/-. The money was put in use for various programs and projects of APD covering rural and urban Karnataka. If asked where were the funds specifically utilised, it is difficult to name one. This is because the undesignated funds which are generated via the platform of TCS World 10K is utilized into advocacy, marketing and communication, mobility aids to smaller NGOs, Medicine reimbursement processes and many unplanned and sudden expenses related to the projects. The whole idea behind generating undesignated and general funding was thus met. While talking to people, I tell them that for every amount generated, a report wouldn’t be sent on intervals. Only by the end of the year the Annual Reports will be sent. In this way, donors are aware about our plight, hence they donate with a lot of trust and faith. Via the platform of TCS W10K, APD has been able to raise a huge amount of undesignated funds from individuals and corporate and thus helping the organization take forward their activities and programs throughout the year.
Navendu : Can you elaborate on the Economic Times report on Disability published in December 2015?
Mansoor : Today, approximately 80% of the disabled students drop out of school due to the poor and unsupported infrastructure. Lack of ramps, apt toilets, disabled friendly buses and elevators discourages students to come to schools. It is a very upsetting state. First of all, they are already struggling due to their physical condition and then due to lack of infrastructure they feel like a burden to others. This directly affects their self confidence and hurdles the growth affecting their success and education for all. The situation for girls is even worse in the rural areas. Post dropping out of schools, they still need support of a family member or a neighbour to take them to the toilets. Thus, they get sexually abused and lead a rough life with painful compromises.
Infrastructure being disabled friendly will not only help the physically challenged but also temporary disabled, old age people, pregnant women, children and people who’ve met with accidents. Thus, a change in the construction pattern of buildings will resolve many problems at one go.
Navendu : Is sympathy, the reason for people to donate or are they aware about the challenges the disabled community face?
Mansoor : Both! Infact, people donate for many reasons but I know that while I am talking to them, I am trying to change their sympathetic sttitude. This is because I wholeheartedly associate myself with the cause. My talks have left a mark on people which has reflected on their behaviour in the past. While pitching at the corporate to get funds for APD, I bring in something new to their plate every time i reach out and this raises the awareness level much more than the previous time. Corporates thus feel the urgency and donate to the cause. I mention about the therapy and find case studies as also one of the best ways to reach to people and make them aware about. Reading through the testimonial in APD’s website, a lady from the Canada came down to APD for the treatment of her son who was physically challenged. The power of testimonies are valued by many.
Today India is home for 2.17% of people who are categorised as disabled. Fortunately, with the help of progressive plans and enactments, the total workforce of India now constitutes 0.87% of People with disability. In adverse situations also, people with disability keep inspiring the countrymen today by not only being employable but also achieving greater milestones in their respective fields of ability [Read more]. TCS World 10K brings a possibility for people like them to reach out to the world and create an inclusive society.
As spoken to Navendu Rashmi,
India Cares Foundation