EKansh Trust believes that the first step towards inclusion of people with disabilities is creating awareness
“As a child, I had watched a group of men who were hearing-impaired signing animatedly outside the park in Mumbai that I used to frequent with my grandfather. It had always fascinated me. It stayed in my memory and, when I moved from Gurgaon to Pune, I set up a group and decided to teach ‘hearing’ people to sign (using sign language) so that we can communicate with the deaf.
“At different times in my life, my husband with his broken foot, the two of us with our baby daughter in a stroller and my grandmother with her illness in her last days, all struggled with the physical infrastructure in India. The condition and design of built-up spaces, including footpaths, public areas, parks, etc, are not really people-friendly. The last straw was when my grandmother could not use her wheelchair in the lift of the building because it was too small. She had to undergo the indignity of being taken down three floors on a makeshift stretcher,” says Anita Narayan, founder and managing trustee of EKansh Trust, musing about the factors that motivated her to set up the Trust along with Bhakti Karia (a silent partner).
EKansh works for people with physical/mobility and sensory impairments in several ways. People with disabilities are entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to anyone, including personal privacy. Their simple message is: “If you find it inappropriate to ask people about their sex lives, or their complexions, or their incomes, extend the courtesy to people with disabilities.” It works at making this happen through advocacy for equal access for people with disabilities as well as early intervention, education, employment, entertainment, recreation, legal and medical aid.
An office in the heart of Pune is the nucleus of its diverse activities. EKansh conducts workshops at colleges of management, design and communication, to sensitise people. It has story and colouring books for children in schools so that they grow up as sensitive adults. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has printed its colouring books for PMC schools. Many other private schools are adopting its story books for their students. EKansh also works in slums and semi-rural areas spreading disability awareness through anganwadi workers.
However, awareness and sensitising is not the whole story. Anita adds, “This work for people with disabilities led to many candidates approaching us for jobs. We conducted our first ‘job fair’ for them, in 2010. We’ve had two such fairs, in 2013 and 2015, in which all major ‘equal opportunity employers’ participated. We believe, we have changed mind-sets in the corporate world and among people with disabilities too. They now aspire for bigger and better things, just like everyone else. However, with their basic education and training being substandard, thanks to archaic methods of teaching, their employability levels suffer. We conduct training programmes for them in basic English language communication, soft skills and computer operations.”
EKansh’s future plan is to have a full-fledged, well-equipped, state-of-the-art training centre for people with disabilities. It is not only about computers, but also other employable skills. Anita feels that scribes scoring on behalf of candidates, who are visually or physically challenged, is a trend that should not be encouraged. She proudly continues with her ambitious goals by saying, “We need to ensure that candidates are well qualified so that equal opportunity does not mean allowances. Often, we are asked to focus on ‘low hanging fruit’; it is not just offensive but also discriminative. We are here to help those who are denied help elsewhere.”
However, funding is a constraint at EKansh and Anita concludes by saying, “We hope a patron with deep pockets and a big heart will come forward to fund such a training centre and partner with us so that we are able to rope in the best trainers in the country and equip our candidates with all the skills they need to progress in life.”
Amit Samruddhi 2nd floor,
Jungli Maharaj Road,
Pune -411004, Maharashtra