Someone said the other day that to institute an award these days is the easiest route to public notice. Find your sponsors, design an award, select an ‘in' venue and Google for a few names in a particular field, and yes, do get a known name or two to present the awards in front of press photographers frantically clicking away, and you have your moment. What the awards will or should do for the betterment of a particular field in the long run is secondary.

Well, looking at the ever-growing canopy of awards for awards sake, this is not too far-fetched a description. However, the succour is, there are still some awards being instituted — like the brand new NCPEDP MPHASIS Universal Design Awards, given away in New Delhi recently — which seems to have the ability to stand out of this torrent of awards shower. Tell you why, these design awards are an attempt — for the first time in the country, to spot people, with disabilities and otherwise, and also companies and organisations contributing to accessibility, not just in terms of physical space but also in the field of information, technology, transport, services, aids and appliances, etc. With an estimated 70 million disabled living in the country, and the rate of longevity ever rising, it is becoming an imperative that we make our public places and services universal design enabled. In this year's awards list are interesting people and concepts, categorised in three divisions, that have and can contribute substantially to this end.

“In time, it is expected that the awards will encourage more people to work in the field of promoting access and universal design,” says NCPEDP executive director Javed Abidi. Like this year, the awards will be given away on the eve of Independence Day, “to symbolise access as the true spirit of freedom,” he adds.

To underscore the good work, we present you a peek at three inspiring names whose physical limitations let them explore possibilities to not only improve their lives but others too.

Imtiyaz Ahmed Kachvi

A resident of Ranibennur, Karnataka, middle-aged Imtiyaz Ahmed Kachvi is a post-polio paraplegic since the age of two. His turning point was a traumatic trip to Hubli in 1992 where he sustained bruises on his palms and knees while crawling to board trains and autorickshaws. He thought up a hand-pedalled tricycle, weighing about 20-25 kgs, “to move about with dignity.” Over the years, he has added several modifications to it, saying, “Now it weighs only 12-15 kgs.” Prompted by his success, Kachvi now makes similar tricycles for paraplegics on order.

Sam Taraporevala

Head of Sociology at Mumbai's St. Xavier's College, Sam Taraporevala has been an active force in getting bookshare.org, the world's largest online library for the print impaired, to India.Born visually impaired, Sam was also instrumental in implementing guidelines for operating DEMAT accounts for the blind.He has worked with ATM machine manufacturers to build accessible ATMs.

Sunita I. Sancheti

Some years ago, Sunita Sancheti injured her spinal cord in an accident and became wheel-chair bound.

This Mumbai resident began to realise a life of limitations that a disabled lives in this country “simply because our public spaces are not disabled friendly.”

She decided to fight, in the form of taking part in public events, like the Mumbai Marathon, for the last five years.

Through the organisations, NINA Foundation and ADAPT, she started “wheel chair events” in the city and did access audits of corporate establishments and public spaces. Thanks to her, many Mumbai malls, hospitals, BEST buses and a museum are disabled friendly today

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The NCPEDP MPHASIS Universal Design Awards 2010 also recognised the effort of people in two other categories. Under Working Professionals, it chose Ferdinand J. Rodricks for customising vehicles, devices and appliances for the disabled, Gaurav Raheja from IIT, Roorkee, for design research and M.S. Raju, an IIT Kharagpur alumnus, for training visually impaired and low vision persons to use computers.

In Companies and Organisations, it picked ITC Royal Gardenia, Bengaluru, for its accessible design, the India chapter of Sighsavers for its services relating to education and efforts at social inclusion of incurably visually impaired persons, Yahoo! India for its accessibility lab and Wipro Limited for providing an inclusive environment for its workers.