By YKA Staff:
Youth Ki Awaaz hosted its flagship event CONVERGE 2016, today, which featured a series of talks delivered by some of the most inspiring young change-makers in India.
Following enriching talks by young change-makers such as Sabbah Haji, Ankur Warikoo and Monika Khangembam, among others, Pradeep Raj, the international para-athlete and disability rights activist took the stage. True to his favourite quote, according to his Facebook page- “I M Possible”- Raj’s talk was inspirational, emotional and reflected his deep sense of determination.
Beginning with his own personal history, Raj spoke about being diagnosed with polio in both legs when he was just 18 months old. At 5 years, he was enrolled in a regular school, from where he was forced to drop out within a month. The problem? Accessibility.
Raj went on to highlight how he was then enrolled into Amar Jyoti School with provisions for special needs. With accessibility tools (such as his crutches) and supportive education at his disposal, his entire life changed. “Within 2 to 3 years, I lost both my crutches.” Raj actively participated in playing cricket at this time. When Raj returned to regular school again in 8th grade, however, he was faced with discrimination and lack of access once again- barricading his growth and development.
Raj then spoke about how his experiences dominated the decisions he made in the rest of his life. His disability rights activism and active involvement in para-athletics stems from his firm belief that all that people like him need, is accessibility. He said, “After all my advocacy, in the 2016 Paralympics, India won four gold medals.”
He also said that while everyone applauded this massive achievement, it is important that awareness be created around the fact that there was a struggle behind this win, a struggle of activism, a struggle for access that brought about this change.
Raj concluded on a determined note, inviting people to join in his cause, and said: “If we create accessibility for all, it won’t be just four medals in the next Paralympic games- it would be 50.”