“Disability need not be an obstacle to success”
– Stephen W. Hawking
The Indian Constitution places differently abled individuals in Article 41, which talks about the welfare of unemployable groups such as the elderly, sick and differently abled. This is a clear indication of how the different abled individuals are perceived as unproductive and/or unemployable. According to the ‘Annual Disability Status Report’, of the 70 million differently abled persons, only 100,000 have obtained employment in India. Recently, the government has been making efforts in forms of progressive legislation, schemes and provisions for their benefit. But in reality, the community is being consistently disadvantaged and marginalised by neglect.
It only takes a cursory glance around the country to see just how indifferent we are towards our differently abled population and their needs. Indian roads, public facilities, transport systems, etc. none of them are designed in a manner that can be easily accessed by anybody that is differently abled. A particularly concerning fact when you take into account that 2.21% of our massive population, or 26,810,557 citizens in our country can be considered physically handicapped. Out of this, 20.3% (5,436,604 citizens) suffer from disability in movement, in particular. The question is-- does their disability make them any less capable than any of us or is it simply our lower expectations that reduce their confidence in themselves?
Our country has a number of para-athletes who have achieved greatness despite all odds against them, whether it’s conquering Mt. Everest with a prosthetic limb or becoming a quadriplegic tennis champion.
Here are just some of the true homegrown legends who didn’t let their disability stop them from conquering the world.
I. Arunima Sinha
The first woman amputee to climb Mount Everest.
In 2011, Arunima Sinha lost her leg when some robbers pushed her out of a moving train. Determined to not let the pity and ridicule she had to face bog her down, she decided to climb Mount Everest. Two years later, as a result of sheer persistence, she became the first woman amputee/ the first Indian amputee to climb the tallest peak in the world and even went on to climb Kilimanjaro in Africa, Elbrus in Europe and Kosciuszko in Australia.
II. Major DP Singh
The first Indian to run half a marathon with the blade.
The journey to earning the epithet ‘India’s Blade Runner’ wasn’t an easy one for Major DP Singh. On July 15, 1999, Major DP Singh was heavily injured in Kargil during Operation Vijay. The surgeons at the Army hospital declared him dead. Luckily, they were able to revive him and amputating his right leg helped them save his life.
He had to endure 10 painful years of recuperation but refused to give up so he shifted his love for rally sports and took up running instead. In 2009, he signed up for his first marathon and took up training with his prosthetic leg. Today, he has successfully run 12 marathons and even holds the Limca record for being the first Indian to run a half marathon with the blade -- a feat that has earned him the epithet of blade runner.
III. Deepak Sharma
Amputee marathon Runner and fitness enthusiast.
In 2014, Deepak Sharma lost a limb in an accident. Even though he was an athlete in school, it was post his accident that he found his passion for running. While being an avid marathon lover, he is simultaneously working with an advertising firm in Bangalore and currently, he is preparing for the 2016 Paralympics as well as the Ironman World Championship that is held in Hawaii every year.
IV. Girish Sharma
India’s differently abled Badminton Champion.
Sharma was only 2 years old when lost his limb in a train accident. He never let his disability become a hurdle to him, however. Even as a child he “used to play cricket, football, badminton with normal children of his age” and today, he trains for 6 hours every day. It is this sheer dedication that led him to win the Gold Medal in Paralympic Asia Cup for the Disabled. He has also represented India and played in other countries such as Israel, Germany and Thailand. He remains disgruntled though, about the fact that despite leading India for the differently abled, and bringing back Gold medals, his efforts are left unrecognised.
V. H Boniface Prabhu
India’s leading quadriplegic Tennis Champion.
A failed lumbar puncture made H. Boniface Prabhu a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. Despite his disability, he continued his education in a regular school and worked hard never letting his dreams of being a tennis player die. Today, he is one of the leading quadriplegic wheelchair tennis players in the world and Boniface has a world ranking of 17 in singles and 19 in doubles. He was the highest ranked player in Asia in 2011 and at present, his ranking is no. 2. He was also awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2014.
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