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Bringing down those walls

First Indian Congress for Persons with Disability at Karl Kubel Institute, Coimbatore  

Seventy-five delegates from Chennai, Bengaluru, Pune, Goa and Mumbai attended the recently concluded Congress for persons with Disability. The first such Indian Congress was held at the Karl Kubel Institute for Development Education, Mankarai. It is worth mentioning that the institute located in a picturesque location is one of the few fully wheelchair accessible facilities in Coimbatore where around 100 persons can be housed. The Swarga Accessible taxi ferried the wheelchair users.

Thomas Kraus, the initiator of such Congresses worldwide since 20 years ago, came from Berlin and inaugurated the event along with P Chandrasekar, District Disability Welfare Officer for Coimbatore.

The programme began with a musical performance on the keyboards by 19-year-old Adhitya Venkatesh who is on the Autism Spectrum. Kraus then made a presentation of the various Congresses including the latest ones in Russia and Thailand. Micky Joseph, Rabindran Issac, Sumanth Iyengar and G Vinay Kumar from India had attended the first ever congress in Yekaterinburg in Russia in 2017, and it was there that a need for a similar gathering in India was keenly felt. Akila Vaidyanathan from Amaze Trust offered to organise one in Coimbatore.

Karl Kubel Institute buzzed with activity as the delegates invigorated by the fresh air, coffee and breakfast gathered for proceedings. There was music again from 16-year-old Mithilesh who has Autism and 23-year-old Saswath who has Cerebral Palsy (CP). Suraj Kumar of Swarga Foundation, who has Muscular Dystrophy, talked about basic photography skills. Not too far was a workshop on “Art from Waste” by Geetha Ashwin and Viola Isaac.

A discussion on employment and employability was chaired by Kraus with panellists Iyengar who has CP and works for Flipkart, Bharat Subramanian and Viraj Bhat who have autism and work for SAP, Bengaluru, and Arun who is a manager at Youth4Jobs, a company that trains and places persons with disability.

Art from waste at the conference

Art from waste at the conference  

Parameswari R, who has locomotor challenges and is from Kollathupalayam village near Coimbatore, demonstrated how to make payasam. She has been learning to cook so that she can support her parents. Arokia Raj who is visually impaired and Ritika Sahni from Trinayani, a Mumbai-based NGO, spoke of the benefits and techniques of Acupressure.

A classical violin concert by Tarisio Award winning artistes Apoorva Krishna on the violin, Sunaad Anoor on the kanjira and Vinod Anoor on the mridangam was interactive session with the young performers playing classical and popular beloved pieces. The Bahudari Ensemble, as they called themselves, also performed impromptu with Akash, Saswath and Mithilesh, students from the Amaze Trust. Mithilesh got a standing ovation for his rendition of Sangeetha Jadi Mullai.

There was a presentation on adaptive sports by Saravana Kumar who has represented the nation for Adapted Table tennis. He spoke of how he was paralysed at the age of 16 when he fell from a terrace but did not give up his love for sports. He adapted his wheelchair to continue playing and also runs his own content-development business. He also drives a modified car.

Clinical psychologist Dr Rathna Issac aled a discussion on relationships with panellists included Krishnakumar from Giftabled, who is single and “ready to mingle”. Swarnalatha J, who started the Swarga Foundation after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, and Geetha and BN Ashwin who have been married for three years spoke of the challenges of finding love, getting married and having relationships. The candid discussion brought up the how society ignored the fact that persons with disabilities had equal right to relationships, sex and marriage.

There were also useful sessions on low-cost adaptive technology and customised solutions by Bobby Paul, Arun Kumar and Subin George from Kerala, Krishnakumar on graphic design and social media marketing. Five persons with disability were honoured for their outstanding achievement. Swarnalatha, Sabari Venkat, a 15-year-old visually impaired National Award winner for Best Creative Child in 2015 (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), Iyengar, Saravana Kumar and Savio Da Gama, a café owner and guitarist) from Goa who has Downs Syndrome. Venkatspoke about himself and his ideal, Swami Viviekananda. But there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that each one was a hero.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 2:08:49 AM |

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