I am Sharada Devi. V, hailing from Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala. Because of my congenital disability, I am short-statured with weak bones. I have been diagnosed with medical conditions like kyphosis and achondroplasia. But my family brought me up, without making me feel that I am disabled. My family – my parents, my younger brother and grandmother – is my greatest support. (My grandmother joined the divine abode 4 years back. But her memories offer me the strength to move forward.)
My parents always ensured that I get the best education. They were determined to make me educated, in spite of all difficulties. I did my schooling and higher education in mainstream educational institutions. My classmates were mostly non-disabled students, who never treated me in a negative manner. The teachers were supportive and they always encouraged me. Since my parents, especially my mother, were quite strict about my studies from the beginning, I always had a spirit of competition. This always helped me to improve my performance. I could either excel other students or be in par with them.
My disability and the challenges caused by it never deterred me in pursing my aims and passions. After passing Class X and XII with Distinction, I did Graduation and Post Graduation in English Language and Literature from University of Kerala with a First Class. Being a person aspiring to be an Assistant Professor in English, I cleared UGC National Eligibility Test (NET) in English. After taking an M. Phil in English from University of Kerala, I worked as a guest lecturer in English at my alma mater Govt. College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram. Currently, I am pursuing PhD in English at University of Kerala. My area of research is Disability Studies. So through my research itself, I intend to create an awareness on disability rights. I often act as a medium to pass important information concerning persons with disabilities like employment and education.
The journey so far was not definitely an easy one. There were lots of challenges like the lack of infrastructural accessibility. But with the support of my family, I could overcome them and win my rights. I strongly believe that the grace of God is with me.
Education has what brought me to the present position. It shaped my identity. For any person, education is important. But it is very important for a person with a disability. From my experience, I understand that only through education, disabled persons can gain a position in society.
Following my request, ramps were constructed on the way to my classrooms in the college and the university English department where I studied. These ramps later proved useful to many students and teachers with mobility difficulties. I feel happy to know that I could be a part of this change.
Through my social media platforms and motivational talks, I often try in my own ways to impart a social awareness on disability rights. My hobbies include reading, writing, listening to music and singing etc…
So far, I have delivered only a few motivational talks due to lack of time and also because of infrastructural accessibility problems. My first speech was for Haske Foundation, an organization created by students of various campuses in Kerala.
I had been to YMCA’s event Samagra, YWCA Women’s Hostel etc.. as a motivational speaker. I was fortunate to be one of the chief guests and inaugurators of ‘Praptha’, a cell for students with disabilities at my alma mater
Govt. College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram last year. I could motivate the students and their families, sharing my experiences with them. I also shared my experiences at the Gandhi Jayanthi function organized by the Department of Economics at Govt. College for Women. The recent one was on Women’s Day, when I was honoured by The Women Entrepreneur’s Collective (WEC) in Trivandrum. I shared my experiences as a disabled woman, expressing my views on women empowerment and also the need to mainstream disabled women. As an academic, I spoke as a panelist in February 2019 at an international conference on Disability Studies organized by Kristu Jayanti College, Bengaluru. I could also present a paper there.
I do not feel embarrassed to admit that I am a physically disabled person and a wheelchair user. My disability does not shape my identity. It is just a feature of my body.
My quote: “Life is an assortment of positive and negative elements. Move on by accepting only the positives. If your hard work is coupled with your belief in God and in yourself, getting the desired results ……. “ It’s Possible “