These children with disabilities prove that it is just a state of mind. Learn about 5 extraordinary children who have not let their disability act as a crutch in fulfilling their dreams. From seeking admission at Stanford, speaking at the United Nations on inclusive education and winning a bronze in swimming at the Special Olympics these children don’t accept unneccessary limits that society puts on them. After reading their stories we’re sure to stop being “deaf” and “blind” to people with disabilities.
1. Kartik Sawhney, 18
“A lot of people think that disabilities limits you from doing certain things. But I think success comes to those who believe in their strengths.” – Kartik Sawhney.
Kartik Sawhney, a visually-impaired teen from New Delhi, changed the way Indian educators look at disabled students. As a student in mainstream schools, Sawhney became aware of his mother’s tremendous effort to ensure that his school materials were transcribed into braille. As a result, he turned to the computer to assist him with his studies. When he scored 96% in CBSE Class 12 exams and became the first visually impaired student to score as much, his joy knew no bounds. However, little did he know that it wouldn’t be enough and he would have to prove his mettle again and again. Sawhney was not allowed to sit for the IIT entrance examination for three consecutive years just because he was visually impaired. However, his hard work paid off and he finally got a fully funded scholarship to pursue a 5-year engineering programme at Stanford University in California.
Currently at Stanford, Sawhney said he hopes to become a software developer and produce applications that are accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities. He is also young campaigner of disability rights and a member of the Youth Council of the Global Partnership on Children with Disabilities. His future plans include coming back to India and improving the living conditions for the visually impaired. Watch a film on what Kartik taught his teacher
2. Hridayeshwar Singh Bhati, 14
“Despite of being immobile, he is determined to give mobility solutions to millions, as he invented a mobility vehicle modification in car for those who are disable.” – Sarowar Singh Bhati, father of Hridayeshwar.
Known as “Mini Stephen Hawking of India”, 14 year old from Jaipur, Hridayeshwar Singh Bhati, suffers from Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a progressive degenerative disorder of muscle tissue which stops the brain from sending signals to the muscles. Due to his condition he cannot walk, shake hands or even cannot sit without support.
Yet, he is the youngest patent holder in India and the youngest disabled patent holder in the world for his invention of a six-player variant of chess in 2012. He also bags three patents for three types of circular chess boards to his name. The three boards collectively make 100 chess variants. It is his ability to think tangentially, use Coreldraw
software and his deep understanding of geometrical and mathematical complications that helped him achieve this feat.
Bhati’s ambition is to become a scientist. “I want to be like Hawking who become a famous scientist despite suffering from motor neuron disease.” Apart from this, he enjoys learning French and playing video games. He gives credit for his success to his parents and continuous and teachers for providing a supportive environment for his to excel. Bhati has his own website too!
3. Swarnalakshmi Ravi, 17
“Another world is indeed possible and it must include everyone.”- Swarnalakshmi Ravi.
Swarna’s struggle as a visually challenged girl began when two schools in Chennai denied her admission because she was visually impaired, forcing her to travel 30 km away to a special school in Nungambakkam. With 92 per cent in her tenth board exams, the girl managed to secure admission in a government school in Puducherry after many challenges and requests to the State CM.
Today, Swarnalakshmi is among the nine other children who represented the Nine is Mine campaign for child rights, in New York last year, to demand inclusive policies for children and securing their rights ahead of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals at the 70th session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York. She is a high-power orator who captivates audiences through her speeches across the globe, promoting the participation and equal rights of all disabled children. Hear Swarna talk on the Nine is Mine campaign
4. Phynjoplang and Rida Khrim, 16
“There should not be any discrimination. I will demand inclusive education for all at the UN,” Phynjoplang conveyed through Khrim in sign language.
Phynjoplang and Rida Khrim are best friends. Brought up in an orphanage in Meghalaya, they share each other’s dreams and vision. Born with speech and hearing impairment, Phynjoplang, 16, and his interpreter and best pal Khrim, have been to the UN in 2013 to talk about inclusive education for both disabled and abled children.
The much spoken about duo have put forward their demands on behalf of millions of Indian children for proper healthcare, safe drinking water, well-equipped schools and protection from abuse and neglect. “I demand better education for the disabled children. Why shouldn’t they study with abled children? Why this discrimination?” asks Khrim.
5. Yash Singh, 14
“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
The Indian squad for the Special Olympics in LA last year comprised 241 sportspersons from 25 states across India. Amongst them was Yash Singh, a young boy suffering from Autism. Yash worked very hard to get into Special Olympics Bharat team. Coach Abhijit Tambe attributed his success to his discipline and devotion to the sport — he wakes up at 4.30 am every day to train — and the support of his parents.
At the Special Olympics, Yash became the first Indian to win a medal at Special Olympics World Summer Games 2015 in Los Angeles, by winning a bronze in the 25-metre backstroke swimming category. Yash embodies the Special Olympics Bharat oath — “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”