They are differently able

different1

Can some physical disability impede a person’s spirit? The answer is a Big NO. People with disabilities are far more spirited and powerful than normal people, I suppose, hardships in their life prepare them for a bigger and brighter purpose. Disabled people have that additional grit and determination and strength, which we normal people are bowled over by. People with disabilities learn so much throughout their lives; they learn the life lessons that able-bodied people rarely get to experience.  I always wonder while normal people keep giving excuses for their limitations, the incapacitated in spite of their glaring disabilities do not crib about their limitations at all.

different2Srikanth Bolla’s life was never easy. He always faced discrimination because of his disability from his childhood. He was born blind in a village called Sitaramapuram in Andhra Pradesh. The villagers advised his farmer parents to let him die. His parents paid no heed. At school too, he would often be pushed to the last bench and would not be included in active sports. Yet, this didn’t deter Srikanth, who excelled in studies and topped the Class 10 board exams in his school. At the Intermediate level, when he wanted to opt for Science, the Andhra Pradesh Education Board refused to grant permission. It said that Arts was what the only stream the blind could take up. Srikanth filed a case and, after a six month wait, the Board agreed to let him pursue Science. Srikanth topped his Class 12, securing a 98%.

The next big hurdle came when he decided he wanted to study engineering at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). He faced discrimination yet again when he was denied an admit card to the IIT entrance examination. That’s when Srikanth decided, “If IIT doesn’t want me, why should I crave for it, and even I don’t want IIT!” He applied to schools in the United States for an undergraduate program and secured admission in four of the top schools – MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon. He eventually chose MIT and became the school’s first international blind student!!!

He chose his battles carefully and did his homework searching the Internet to find the best engineering program for someone like himself. He applied to schools in the US and got into the top four — MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and Carnegie Mellon. He went to MIT (with a scholarship) as the first international blind student in the school’s history.

Towards the end of his bachelor’s course when the ‘what next’ question came up, it brought him back to where he had started. Many questions bothered him. Why should a disabled child be pushed to the back row in the class? Why should the 10 percent of the disabled population of India be left out of the Indian economy? Why can’t disabled make a living like everyone else with dignity? He decided to give up the ‘golden’ opportunity in corporate America and came back to India in search of answers to his questions. He set up a support service platform to rehabilitate, nurture and integrate differently-abled people in society.

Srikanth Bolla is standing tall today. He is the CEO of Hyderabad-based Bollant Industries, an organization that employs uneducated disabled employees to manufacture eco-friendly, disposable consumer packaging solutions, which is worth Rs 50 crores. He considers himself the luckiest man alive, not because he is now a millionaire, but because his uneducated parents, who earned Rs 20,000 a year, did not heed any of the ‘advice’ they received and raised him with love and affection. “They are the richest people I know,” says Srikanth. I think Srikant is more abled than you and me.

different3Stephen Hawking the world renowned Physicist suffers from rare motor neuron disease and speaks with the help of a voice synthesizer. When he was 21 years old, the doctors declared that he would not survive more than 2 or 3 years. He was born on January 8, 1942 and was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In 2009, he lost his control over different parts of the body including arms, legs and voice and at the end of 2009, he totally became paralyzed. Today, he is one of the most brilliant scientists in the world. The wheelchair-bound Stephen Hawking, attended Oxford University in England, as an undergraduate student. He received his Ph.D in 1966 from Cambridge University. By the time he was 35 years old, Hawking was Cambridge’s first Gravitational Physics professor and received the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics award. Do you know that Sir Isaac Newton was a holder of this chair, in the 17th century? Stephen Hawking warns that artificial intelligence could end humanity. He has published a book called A Brief History of Time from the Big Bang to Black Holes.

different4How can we call Helen Keller a disabled? She was born as a blind, deaf, and mute on June 27, 1880 She went on to become an author, political activist and lecturer, and she devoted her life to persons with disabilities, thus becoming an inspiration to many disabled persons. A prolific author, Keller travelled to at least 39 countries. She campaigned for women’s suffrage, workers’ rights, socialism and many other social causes.

different5Albert Einstein had a learning disability and did not speak until age 3. He had a very difficult time doing math in school. It was also very hard for him to express himself through writing. He was severely dyslexic and autistic. The great Albert Einstein fought his disability and entered into the world of theoretical physics where he changed the face of physics and science forever. His theory of relativity is said to be the most revolutionary theory of physics. He won a Nobel Prize for his photoelectric effect theory in 1921.

different6Robin Williams suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) as a child. The actor and comedian Robin Williams won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as therapist Dr. Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. He received 2 Emmy Awards, 6 Golden Globe Awards, 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards and 5 Grammy Awards.

different7Preethi Srinivasan became Quadriplegic at the age of 18 on 11th July, 1998. She was the captain of the under-19 Tamil Nadu women’s cricket team during its only victory in a national tournament in 1997 and a champion in swimming. She has defeated her disabilities with her strong will. Wheel-chair bound 34-year-old Preethi runs an NGO called Soulfree, where she imparts lessons of hope to those women who suffer from various kind of physical disabilities. She gives inspirational and motivational speeches at various institutions and she is remarkable in doing so.

different8Bharat Kumar was born with right hand only by birth, but his physical disability never dissuaded him from pursuing his dreams. Born on Dec 10, 1989, Bharat Kumar is a world champion, he has made Bharat (India) proud by winning over 50 medals in para-swimming contests. He has won two international titles, one silver at the IWAS World Junior Athletics Championships in Ireland and one gold medal and over 40 national level medals. Vibrant Bharat has flown to countries like England, Ireland, Holland, Malaysia and China to participate in swimming contests.

They are differently able:

Self-determination enables a person to engage in achieving his/her goals. It can help a person in self-regulating and self-directed behavior. An understanding of one’s strengths and limitations together with a belief in oneself as capable and effective are essential for self-determination. There are countless examples of people who have achieved things which able bodied people have not.

I suppose it is the society’s inability to recognize able-minded people before tagging anybody ‘disabled.’

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