All women are very strong and resilient by nature. But combine that with determination and compassion, you get a very rare breed of humans who live their lives helping others. Madhuram Aparajita is one such person. A corporate lawyer by profession, Madhuram has been active in the field of disability since her college days. She is associated with WeCapable and has co-founded the YouTube Channel ‘Dashamlav‘. She currently mentors over one lakh Persons with Disabilities (PwD) through various digital platforms. Her commitment to PwD’s welfare is commendable, especially noting that she herself is not one. Let us know more about her work in her own words.
Jyoti: Madhuram, thank you for this interview. Please tell us about your association with the cause of disability.
Madhuram: It all started some 8-9 years ago. During my college days, I remember watching this movie named ‘The Great Debaters’. I was so moved by the movie that I took a voluntary initiative of mentoring the visually impaired children of Pune’s Blind School for national debates. When I started interacting with the students, I was in complete awe of their learning and intellectual capabilities. This initiative gave me an opportunity to observe the lives of visually impaired children closely. Later, I also used to visit Chesire Home in my hometown Ranchi. Even today, some students from Chesire Home contact me for any help/assistance required.
These individual initiatives encouraged me to do something in this field in a more channelized way. In 2017, I collaborated with my friend and mentor Mr. Lalit Kumar. He is affected by polio and he himself was considering working for the betterment of lives of PwDs. He started an online information resource named ‘WeCapable.com‘ and I joined in as a legal associate. While working on WeCapable, we realised that lack of awareness is one of the major issues prevalent in this field and we could reach the masses only if the awareness is spread in the language of the masses – which is predominantly Hindi. So, we started a YouTube Channel in Hindi for awareness named ‘Dashamlav‘. Currently through Dashamlav and WeCapable, we are connected to over one lakh PwDs and we are constantly spreading awareness about their rights and providing them relevant information which can empower them and encourage them to lead a decent life.
Jyoti: You are not affected by disability yet you work voluntarily in this field. It is commendable. But have you ever felt unaccepted by PwDs while trying to make a difference?
Madhuram: While it is true that developing an instant connection is difficult in some cases but I have never felt unaccepted. They have been very much welcoming.
Jyoti: We all can see that accessibility remains a major challenge for PwDs. We would like to know your opinion on the main challenges faced by Person with Disabilities living in India?
Madhuram: Apart from accessibility, lack of jobs, awareness, proper education and proper health care facilities remain at the top. The problems faced by PwDs are rather diverse in nature. There are many issues which are very specific to a particular geography or social strata. Problems in rural areas are different than those in urban areas. While lack of job and proper education could be the main concern in urban areas, we find lack of identification cards and proper health care as major issues in the rural areas. I mean, how will the government identify any person for any subsidy, benefit or help when there is no source of identification in the form of Aadhaar Card or Voter ID Card?
Jyoti: Being closely associated with the social cause, what are your thoughts about life of woman with disabilities?
Madhuram: Very Difficult! The person feels so restricted in every front, it is beyond explanation. Just to give you an example – I have come across females who have got themselves operated in order to stop their menstrual cycle. Now, this is something which is not natural so it has a very adverse impact on their body cycle. We can’t even imagine the level of physical pain and mental agony they go through!
The difficulties multiply for women who lack education or belong to the lower strata of society – no jobs, most likely no marriage, no access to healthcare and no benefits reach them. It’s like living in a closed room without any window. Their physical restrictions have compelled them to be isolated and it eventually leads to depression. Sadly, we face difficulties even in reaching out to them because most of these rural women are not enrolled with any targeted government schemes as they do not possess any government ID card.
Jyoti: Has not digitization helped? How positive or negative has been the role of digital revolution in the lives of women with disabilities?
Madhuram: It is positive only to the ones who are well educated. Educated women with disabilities have definitely been benefited in the age of digital revolution. While accessibility of most places remains an issue even for them, they are now more connected and in a better state to take care of their lives. Online jobs, social connectivity and doorstep services have provided them a great deal of independence. But as I said, this is restricted only to the educated lot.
The negative aspect of this digital revolution in their lives is – ‘Catfishing’. These women sometimes fall in trap online in the name of love. In fact it is a very serious issue prevailing. They lack awareness and sometimes even after being aware, they are in a denial mode as their want to feel love, affection and acceptance is strong. This is certainly a concern.
Jyoti: Do you think society needs to change their collective attitude towards PwD?
Madhuram: Absolutely! We, as a society, need to be much more inclusive and accepting. This needs to be inculcated in us from the very beginning. We will be inclusive only when we come across PwDs more often in our day to day life. This will happen only when accessible infrastructure is provided to them. It all has to start from school. When a child will grow up with a friend or classmate with disabilities, he will automatically develop empathy.
We, as a society, need to be more mature and sensitive. Usage of terms like ‘langra‘, ‘lulha‘, ‘andhaa‘, ‘kaanaa‘, etc should be done away with. We need more sensitization programs, more genuine portrayal of PwDs in our movies and books. These steps will help us build a more inclusive society.