Wheels Walkie Talkie: The Power Of A Wheelchair
Strong-willed and confident with a fierce passion for travelling, our expert, Shama Noorani has never learnt to give up. Read on to know what she has to say
Since before I can remember, I’ve always loved travelling. However, my travels haven’t always been devoid of drama as I’m a paraplegic and use a power chair. I plan to use this blog to highlight some of the hurdles I faced, and this is best way to get yourself heard. But before that, I would like to tell you a little about myself.
I was born and brought up in the bustling city of Mumbai, India. I contracted polio at a very young age, but I never let the disability part get the better of me. This was only because of the support I received from my mum, family, school and friends.
I used callipers and crutches for mobility from the age of 3 to 17. I learnt to adapt very quickly to overcome limitations at every age. This was as there were no ramps but only stairs to access apartment blocks and public buildings, including my own.
The general public were mostly desensitised towards me they would often stare , conveying unwanted sympathy. Though quaking from within from being voyeured, I would ask, “What happened? Is there a movie being shot here?” This generally made them uncomfortable and they would scurry off.
I decided to become a wheelchair user at the age of 18. This became my passport for independence, a precursor to the best time of my life!
My new found independence meant that I could travel, sans the demeening requirement of being bodily carried over steps and pavements. I travelled up to the mountains in Kullu Manali and Pokhra. I visited Goa, London, Paris and Italy! Having many adventures on the way, including being offloaded from an international flight in the 80’s, for requesting a seat closer to the exit!
In fact it was on that trip that I used a powerchair that climbed the steps right up to the entrance of the aircraft. An eye opener to someone for whom steps and staircases were nothing short of drama! It made up for being offloaded as I would not have had the opportunity of using a stair chair.
There was always a thought in the back of my mind to do something to make India accessible, but I had no idea how. There was an ‘Access for All’ seminar in the 80’s, which I attended with great hope. Needless to say my hopes were crushed as nothing happened!
It was only when I moved to the UK did I realise how much the specially-abled back home were lacking in basic infrastructural amenities and aids to make day-to-day life easier. Thinking back to my childhood and youth I now understood and appreciated all the compromises I had to make.
I move back and forth to and from the UK now, and have taken it upon myself to be the voice of change However small, to create a more sensitised India. An India in which there is dignity and respect for being a specially abled human being.
I am looking forward to sharing my escapades, Tweets and screams in the future on the blog! My next blog is focused on the security personnel in Indian airports and their attitude towards a disabled passenger. Along with my advice and suggestions on sensitising them to realise that wheels can walk and talk! Happy reading until then!