When it comes to the welfare of Persons with Disability (PWDs), India lags the developed world by a huge margin. Out of the 26.8 million PWDs in India, only about three percent are gainfully employed, whereas in developed countries, the employment rate of PWDs is between 30% and 50%. This fact, right here, should give us major cause for concern.
There are many famous Indians with disabilities who, with their strength and determination, inspire us every day: people like Boniface Prabhu, Shekar Naik, Deepa Malik, Sudha Chandran and others. But when it comes to disabled people outside the spotlight, the situation is quite dismal. The literacy rate among disabled people is as low as 59%, as compared to 74% of the general population. Disabled persons also face extremely high barriers to employment.
It's about time someone starts promoting their cause, not as a favour to them, but as an economic necessity. According to a report by The World Bank, excluding PWDs from the mainstream leads to a loss of 3% - 7% from India's GDP realisation.
Thankfully, every cause has its champion, and Boniface Prabhu is the man who's taken it upon himself to raise awareness about PWDs in India. The first Indian to win a medal at the International Paralympic Games, Prabhu is considered a pioneer of quadriplegic wheelchair tennis in India. He has represented the country at various international events in six disciplines, over 75 times! Through his relentless hard work, he has become the epitome of perseverance against the odds.
When he is not competing in sports and winning laurels for the country, Prabhu is fighting to give people like him a voice. In November 2016, he embarked on the journey of a lifetime, the Thums Up Veer K2K Mission. Driving a specially customised car, Prabhu will travel from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in 30 days, covering a distance of 3,500 kilometres, to promote the cause of Persons with Disabilities.
As the lead of the Thums Up VEER K2K expedition, Prabhu will meet thousands of people, including students, government officers, and civil society workers to sensitise them to the various challenges and requirements of PWDs. Campaign VEER aims to address challenges related to inclusive education and employment, skill training and development, and disabled-friendly technology. With the support of its partners, the campaign is working to impart vocational training to these individuals and ascertain their requirements so that they can be made job-ready.