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6 Products That Make Fashion, Travel and Knowledge More Accessible To All!

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By Morgaine Das Varma:

When one looks around the world, one sees it very differently depending on one’s abled status. As described by disabledfeminists.com, “Many cultures have social expectations, structures, cultural mores, and institutions that are set-up to accommodate able-bodied and/ or abled people with the most ease; this is, of course, problematic for those who do not fit the standard of “able-bodied,” or “fully able,” whether in whole or part.”

Fundamentally, one must realise that the world is structured for the benefit of non-disabled people. Buildings, transport, and even fashion. Of course, if you’re a differently abled person, this will all be old news to you.

Thankfully, there are products in the market that are designed specifically for people with disabilities. Although not all of these companies ship worldwide or are within the price range of everybody, they at least offer a snapshot of what is available to those who struggle to be accommodated in a world mainly designed by and for abled people. Quite a few of these products have been designed by differently abled people themselves, such as the Kenguru electric car, whose company founder Stacy Zoern has muscular dystrophy. Technological innovation and understanding is the key to creating a more accessible world.

Fashion For Wheelchair Users

Someone in a wheelchair has the right to clothes that are both comfortable and stylish, but also accommodating to their needs.

As described on the website, Iz Collection clothing “has signature cuts and styles to fit a seated body shape, falling and draping naturally without interfering with wheelchair mechanics.”

They offer both formal and informal styles, as well as plus-sizes.

The SmartCane

The SmartCaneTM device is an electronic travel aid, which is added to a white cane for those with visual impairments.

It uses ultrasonic ranging to detect objects in its path, both at knee height and above. It creates vibrations in various patterns to alert the user to the distance information and thus, prevents them from hindrances in their path. It has a detection distance of three meters at present. The mechanism can be adjusted for differing heights. It uses a rechargeable 10-hour battery and has an ergonomic grip for the user’s comfort.

Users such as Indira Sankari in Mumbai describe it as having increased their confidence,I no more need to hold anyone’s hand for my mobility. I can just be myself.

Facebook For The Visually Impaired

Full of both text and images, one wouldn’t imagine that social media sites are particularly accessible to those with visual impairments. However, Facebook has now introduced “automatic alternative text.” Also called automatic alt text, Facebook describes it as “a new development that generates a description of a photo using advancements in object recognition technology.” After all, visually-impaired people have just as much right to being inundated with their friends’ holiday and nightclub photos as everyone else.

Previously, text recognition software would only state “photo” when they moved the cursor over it; now users will be able to hear photos described in detail as they scroll past.

Wheelchair-Friendly Car

The Kenguru is an electric car that allows the driver to enter while remaining seated in their wheelchair. While other cars require users to collapse their wheelchair and transfer themselves to the interior of a car, the Kenguru allows wheelchairs users to remain seated in their wheelchair. Because it is electric, the Kenguru is an environmentally-friendly choice as well.

An App For Love

Inclov is a matchmaking app based out of India and specifically targeted towards the differently abled. Founders of the app, Kalyani Khona and Shankar Srinivasan, were struck by how 67% of the 100 million people with disabilities in India would not find a life partner. As described on the website, Inclov is a dating app for everyone, but with a particular focus on those with health problems and disabilities, who may have had less success with conventional dating and matchmaking arrangements. It is accessible for the visually impaired and safe for women, with security measures like mobile verification, email verification, profile curation and first name only display. At present, there are about 1000 regular users of the app.

There have already been success stories through this app. 30-year old Anisha Banu Multani and 32-year old Garana Imran M met through the app earlier this year, and will be getting married in May. Both were affected by polio, and both had had little luck with finding partners previously. Even though they already were acquaintances, it was through the app that they both began talking properly, realising that they both had the same hopes for finding a partner with the same life experience.

Le Chal – Smart Footwear

Le chal is the world’s first smart shoe, using vibrations to guide the user to a predetermined location preset by an app. This extraordinary technology lets those with visual impairments navigate the world using “pods” that utitlise Bluetooth technology to connect to the user’s smartphone. The pods are attached to the smart footwear in an unobtrusive manner, and send vibrations to the user to alert them to turns when navigating the route saved on the app. The app responds to voice commands and foot gestures, making it easily accessible. The company will also subsidise those who wish to buy a pair but cannot afford the present price.

If you have used an accessible product or service, or you have designed one, please write in and share your experiences at info@youthkiawaaz.com.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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