Are Para-Sports Venues, Or Events Meant For Disabled People, Accessible?

Today, I want to talk about my experience of being a disabled sportsperson. I’ve played wheelchair rugby a few times when I didn’t have good stamina back then. I’ve participated in para-swimming competitions and won medals there (national level). I’ve done paramotoring and scuba diving as well, and have been a part of an awareness programme by Chandigarh Spinal Rehab and Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation.

But, is it as attractive as it sounds? Was it as smooth as just jumping into the swimming pool and winning the medal? No! I’ve to be lifted by two people to even get inside a pool! And the risk of hurting my back and bum on the corners is high, which can lead to a skin peel developing in pressure sore, eventually leading to complete bed rest for months! People can even die because of a pressure sore and infection if proper measures aren’t taken!

Representational image.

Let me tell you again, accessibility issues are everywhere. I’ve seen many fellow athletes complaining about inaccessible para-sport event venues. In case you don’t know, Para sports and Paralympics are more like sports for disabled persons and the Olympics for disabled persons respectively. So, these para-sports venues must be inclusive and accessible, you must be thinking, as it is solely for disabled people. But most of the times, it is not. Can you believe it? It’s like making movies without a camera. It’s like politics without corruption. Can you even imagine these things?

I’ll share my experience first. I went to participate in the first national wheelchair rugby competition which was held in Patna. Players were provided with a place to stay in the stadium. The building starts with steps. You cannot get inside the washroom. Why do I keep talking about washrooms in every post? Because it makes things easier to explain. Because, it’s the first thing that we look at, the rest of the things can be managed anyhow.

So the venue was inaccessible. One international level player talked to a god-like political figure (probably the chief guest) about installing a ramp at least. I don’t remember who that political figure was but he looked very powerful as there were many policemen and probably bodyguards. And the way that player asked him (political figure) sounded like he was begging for it. It didn’t sound like it was his right to get an accessible venue. He probably didn’t want to screw the mood of the politician. You have to take care of all these things before raising your voice when you’re disabled. And maybe it worked, I thought. The politician announced that they’ll make a ramp soon. And everyone was happy.

Representational image.

I was given a place to stay in the same building when I went to Patna to be honoured by our honourable Deputy Chief Minister, Sushil Kumar Modi. I was one among some 300 disabled people to be honoured by the Government of Bihar for their contribution to sports. No ramp was made in front of the building which was promised a year ago. And the organisers didn’t even care to make temporary ramps at the venue. Even the stage was inaccessible where we were supposed to be given the certificates and all. Atleast there was a temporary ramp during the rugby tournament at the venue! I understand that the disabled are not their priority, and they will maybe manage to make a ramp in a few hundred years.

I was also honoured by the government of Bihar on World Disability Day (for something that I don’t really remember). The situation was not any better. Everything was inaccessible. The organisers of these big state-level events for a person with a disability where bigshot politicians are coming don’t care about accessibility. Why do you think anyone else will think about accessibility? Politicians and political party keep throwing different campaigns and jumlas to give people orgasms but what happens after the announcement? Does anything change?

There are Disability Rights Acts which talk about making buildings and transports and washrooms accessible and inclusive. More types of disabilities were added in the government’s list but did they do anything to change it? Make things smooth? Nothing. Has anything changed? No. Nothing. There’s even a rule that if someone is humiliated because of their disability then they can file a case. But disabled people getting humiliated is normal, be it some sports ground or a train journey. Nothing happens.

People and Para Athlete supports the walk for Paralympics in Kolkata, India on 28 August, 2019. Paralympics is celebrated for enabling people with disabilities at multiple levels. For the last eight years the movement of Paralympics has one unique initiative in India. From demanding the rights for sportsperson to the banning of corrupt Paralympic committee of India this walk was always in forefront. (Photo by Indranil Aditya/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Let me tell you, I’m not saying all this without any reasoning. If the things I’ve shared from my personal experience is not enough, Google it. Indians have won so many medals in the Paralympics. The government doesn’t seem to care about these disabled players. They are not given any encouragement, training, name and recognition, and jobs and monetary help like the Olympic players. Players are discriminated against. Funds are issued, campaigns are launched, and we don’t see any change. Many of these athletes come from a rural background and they don’t get the recognition they deserve. They don’t get the support in their district, or even state level, so that they can sweat harder and win medals for India in the Paralympics.

Few political parties go beyond launching campaigns. I remember the day when some Paralympic player joined a political party because, according to them, the political party had worked a lot in the area of disability. A few days later, what I see is that the person is getting lifted because the stage where they’re supposed to campaign is not accessible.

It is humiliating to be lifted by people to reach an inaccessible stage which has been set up for you. It is harassment and humiliation to be called to be honoured for something at an inaccessible place. It is humiliating to not to make any para-sports venue accessible.

When the places meant for disabled people are not accessible, what are the chances any other place will be accessible? How do you expect these players to train and fight the world and manage to sail through the inaccessible venues and win medals for India at the same time they don’t even get recognition?

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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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