It was a regular work day at office, except the fact that I had already resigned and serving the notice period. To embark on a new journey that would change the course of my life forever.
While just casually surfing the internet, I came across a Facebook post about some event called India Inclusion Summit. When I googled more about it, it was the biggest conference of people with disabilities in the country. That got me intrigued as to why I hadn’t heard of it before. There was an option to attend and another to volunteer. I quickly registered myself as the volunteer, because I wanted to contribute towards it in whatever way I could. But there was a catch, the Summit was in Bangalore!!
Talked to Leena, another volunteer at IIS. She said I could manage the social media. It was so exhilarating to talk to her that I got all the more excited. She was happy too that there is a mad girl in Delhi who wants to come and volunteer for a Bangalore event.
So after much of evaluation and working out the funds for midnight flights (I was in my notice period, with no salary, trying to build a startup) and change of two buses I finally reached IIS on its 2nd day.
Before telling you more about how wonderful the experience was, let me tell you a bit more about myself to help you understand why IIS was so important for me and how a lot of things for me changed from there.
Well, I am a child of people with disabilities. My father is blind and mother is a wheelchair user. The hurdles faced while travelling across India made me quit my job at Adobe to start Planet Abled to fulfill the gap of accessible tourism that existed in our country. I was working towards starting this when I happen to experience IIS last year.
The insensitivity and the lack of awareness that I had mostly felt in society took a U-turn when I got involved in the volunteering activities for IIS. It was like where were all these wonderful people till now?? Why it took me 4 years to get to know about it?
IIS is a group of selfless souls who have taken this responsibility to spread the word of inclusion in our tough Indian society. Ferose, Jaideep, Sunil are few of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. And I felt honored to be given an opportunity to volunteer for it and become a part of the family. For me IIS is a lifelong thing now. I would always be there every year and contribute to it in whichever way I can.
Last year I was involved in the social media coverage of the event and honestly, it was tough to do. Because at times I got so engrossed in the wonderful speeches and conversations that many times I almost missed tweeting and posting about it.
Disability was not new to me neither seeing many people with disabilities overwhelmed me much, but experiencing all the positives when it comes to disability at one place was indeed poignant.
For me, being a volunteer at IIS, I did not give anything rather IIS gave me a lot of positive perspectives towards things. Earlier to that I thought I have a long battle to fight when it comes to Inclusion and creating an egalitarian platform for people with disabilities. But after volunteering and being with the happy family that IIS is in the past one year, I feel the positive side of things when it comes to disability and inclusion in India.
It is one platform that everyone must attend, and I am not saying because I volunteer for it or is associated for it. But because when it comes to disability in India, we as a society have a long way to go in terms of inclusion and accessibility.
Reason being majority of the community has never interacted with a person with disability closely. Until and unless they come close and see that there are no barriers that exist and there are equal numbers of achievers with disabilities, how would they ever grow over the sympathetic and hesitant attitude they have towards people with disabilities? How would they become aware that sometimes very little changes in our day to day things, activities and infra could be life changers for a person with disability?
So if you are one who has never known a person with disability come to IIS to experience and break your inhibitions around it and see the world through a new positive lens.
And if you have seen it closely, come to meet hundreds of other likewise people to spread happiness with each other.
Trust me you would have an impactful experience of your life that would change you forever.