World Disability Day: How to get future ready for persons with disabilities

Shreya Jain with her brother, Suvrat

Shreya Jain with her brother, Suvrat  


On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, meet Shreya Jain of Reservoir, who helps parents and caregivers navigate the legal framework and set up trust funds, letters of intent and UDID for children with special needs

Shreya Jain knows all too well the struggles that persons with disabilities (PwD) face on a day-to-day basis and in the long-term career front. “My younger brother is autistic, and I have always observed the difference between the people who are sensitised towards the community and those who are not,” says the 25-year-old founder and CEO of Reservoir. The year-old Mumbai-based platform promotes inclusivity for the differently-abled in the Indian societal and legal context.

“Let’s say we’re in a movie theatre. I tell the people sitting around us that my brother has autism — he might kick your seat if he gets hyperactive, watch out for your popcorn… Things become a lot simpler, because now everyone is prepared and is nice about anything that happens,” she explains. This led her to the realisation that it is not a lack of empathy, but a lack of understanding. She set out to build a community support system that would have the primary objective of working with families on future planning solutions.

In the know

While the central government has several requirements for PwD, there isn’t enough awareness among those in the community. This includes Unique Disability ID (UDID), legal guardianship when the child turns 18, a will, a trust fund, financial planning and a letter of intent. “Navigating this can be challenging for parents. We understand what their resources are, what their current situation is and what their goals are. Based on this, we work with legal partners, financial advisors and trusteeship companies to set up everything,” says Jain, adding that Reservoir is a for-profit organisation. Fees start from ₹2,000 for a consultation. They also create individual transition plans to prepare in advance for milestones like school, vocation, residential and independent living.

Over the past year, the team has been focussed on informing caregivers about the need to have all these things in place. The UDID, for instance, is not just to create a national database, but to encourage transparency and deliver benefits with ease. This includes a separate lane in airport security, which has been implemented in Delhi, according to Jain. She adds that authorities, too, need to be made aware of the card, and be sensitised on how to deal with PwD. “In the case of Tarun Gupta, the 16-year-old autistic boy who went missing in Mumbai (in October), and was put on a train to Goa by an RPF officer, there could have been a different outcome. The police would have known to check for his UDID and track down the family from the information available,” she says.

Reaching out online

Their inclusivity drive extends to YouTube, where they have videos on what to expect when meeting someone with autism and learning about Down Syndrome with actor Abuli, who has the condition himself. One of their newer projects, one which is very close to Jain’s heart, is the Same Same Par Different pen-pal concept. Through this, a neurotypical (aka “normal”) person is connected to an atypical person via email. “We take a lot of care in screening those who sign up to be part of this, and all conversations are supervised,” she says. For the former, it is a chance to interact and familiarise themselves with PwD, while for the latter, it is an integrative experience.

Reservoir’s online platform, which was launched about two months ago, takes care of two other core objectives: curating resources for caregivers and building a network of trusted professionals for therapy and other needs. “If you’re looking for a sports, arts or music class that has teachers who have experience in working with special needs children, or a therapist who is qualified to treat them, we have around 40 partners registered on our site,” says Jain. Currently available only in Mumbai, they plan to scale up to other urban centres in the coming year. As for tier 2 and tier 3 cities, she believes the reach will work better with offline engagement — similar to the workshops they have been conducting in cities like Chandigarh and Mumbai.


World Disability Day: How to get future ready for persons with disabilities

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 11:12:51 AM |

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