The world had just become more intriguing to her. With her goals in mind and perseverance, she was on a quest to achieve new heights, but that happiness short lived when at the age of 16, she suffered a spine injury, which resulted in the loss of sensation below her waist. Well, it seems excruciating to people, but for her, she is just differently-abled.
The lady is Sunita Sancheti from Mumbai, Maharashtra who in 1987 lost control of her body due to medical negligence. The condition was so grave that she had no control over her bladder and bowel movement. She dropped out of her college in Mumbai. For Sunita, it was not the disability that forced her to quit college, but it was the lack of facilities at her college and awareness program among her colleagues and professors.
Speaking to The Logical Indian, Sunita said,”There are only two rehabilitation centres for persons with spinal cord injuries in a country which has a population around 1.25 billion. One of the centres is in New Delhi, and another one is in Vellore, Kerala. So, for my recovery, I went to the United Kingdom at the age of 26 to learn how to live with my disability by controlling food consumption at timely intervals which would help control bladder and bowel movement. Living in the United Kingdom, I became aware of the possibilities for differently-abled people to move freely like abled people if the urban planners and the leaders put the right infrastructure in place. I observed that the city had created access for differently-abled people.”
This trip motivated her to lobby for similar infrastructure in India. Sunita now works for persons with disability to help differently-abled people to live with easy access to facilities. Alongside her volunteering projects at Able Disable All People Together (ADAPT) and Nina Foundation, Sunita travels across the country to spread awareness about disabilities and to make university campus and tourist places to make it more accessible.
She says,” We need to work on the infrastructure, as spinal injury can happen to anyone anywhere. Any disability requires a lot of counselling as it is an immense setback for people who were leading a normal life once. Once a person suffers from some disablement, many questions arise in mind, and they wish to talk about. At this point, people require counselling. I work closely with Nina Foundation who help people with spinal injury. The system has to be made inclusive of everyone, be it differently abled, senior citizens, pregnant women, as they all require such facilities.”
From School to workplaces, there is a requirement of disabled-friendly infrastructure. Sunita says that when differently-abled people go to a restaurant with their family, they require someone to help them, but if there is a ramp for them to climb, the situation becomes easy and also it does not hurt the dignity of the person. The same difficulty is in watching movies at theatres where there are no proper facilities for physically challenged to climb and watch movies. These are few of the reasons why differently-abled people confine themselves to the life of isolation. From travelling in the train coaches to playing sports in the grounds, every public place needs to be disabled-friendly.
Sunita believes that if the builders, constructors, Public Welfare Departments and Municipal Corporations designs any building or area, the premises should be accessible. The authorities should understand that injuries may happen to anyone at anytime. Therefore the ecosystem should be inclusive of all be it abled or differently abled.
Expressing her concerns, Sunita exclaims that people should understand that differently-abled people are independent and don’t need support. Only they need an accessible infrastructure so that they can work, travel without any escorts.
Recalling one of the incidents, Sunita told The Logical Indian that she is fond of playing badminton and she would go to a sports complex to play badminton, but due to the lack of infrastructure, many of the differently-abled people could not come to play. She says that playing sports is good for health and a person should pursue it irrespective of their abilities.
After dropping out from college, Sunita joined a CA firm and worked there for 15 years. She has now initiated her firm where she files income tax returns.
For her undying efforts, She received The ‘Universal Design’ awards instituted by National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and Mphasis. She was also conferred with Jigar award from Paraplegic Foundation. She also bagged the Empower Women and Empower India Excellence Award. Besides this, she also won a silver medal in the State Paralympic Games in Maharashtra in 2015.
Sunita has been living her life on her terms by defying all the limitation and stigmas attached to the differently-abled people. She feels that people need to be made more and more aware of the organisations like Trinayani those are fighting in the interest of the physically challenged.
The Logical Indian salutes Sunita Sancheti for putting efforts to bring change for the welfare of differently-abled people in our country, and we also hope that the government expedites the process to provide proper infrastructure to differently abled people.