Shanil - 6

“Everyone deserves a seat at the table”

Mohammed Shanil from Kerala sends in his Life Story

I’m Mohammed Shanil from Pang, a place in Malappuram district of Kerala.  We are a family of 7, me, my dad, mother, two sisters, my wife, and the recent member who joined us last year — my son Maherzain.

I’m a person with disability.  But I didn’t let my disability anchor me down within the four walls of my room. Life was never easy for me though. My struggle started with a simple fever, which I had when I was only a year old.. The fever which changed my life forever. It was polio and I got paralyzed from the waist down. This was a shock to my parents but they didn’t give up on me.  My parents enrolled me to a school at the same age as a normal child.  

During my school days, my friends and teachers did not give any special consideration to the fact that I was a disabled child. They treated me just like a normal child. Today, when I look back to those days, I realise that the best lesson they taught me during school life was, “Everyone deserves a seat at the table”. Further on my studies went well.  By the end of the tenth grade, I learnt to drive, thanks to all the motivation and support from my dad. Soon after, he bought me a car. I travelled everywhere in that vehicle, which I could control with my hands. I completed my graduation in BA Economics from Malappuram district.  

Later, I joined the University of Coimbatore for MBA.  Upon completing my post graduation I was determined to get a job. Although I successfully participated in many interviews what they saw was my disability, rather than my skills and abilities.  I didn’t let that affect my confidence, and I made a promise to myself that day, “I will never give up”. I kept the promise, I got appointed as a manager at the “Midac Dental Center” in Malappuram district.

 My wedding was in 2018.  In early 2018, while pursuing for better job opportunities, I was invited to work at the Coimbatore SAHAI Spinal Injuries Rehabilitation Centre as the Public Relations Officer and Administrator . I gladly accepted the job. Each subsequent morning led me to new ideas.  As part of that, the first thing I did was undertake the task of organizing camps for people with disabilities in various places.  I presented my project to the Sahai Trust and they approved it. Each patient selected from such a camp was admitted to the Sahai Rehabilitation Center and was rehabilitated to lead an independent life with better quality of living. I also visited the homes of those who had been discharged after the treatment, to have a firsthand experience of the conditions they had to go through. Most of them surprised me.  They were self-employed and began to live a better life. The one thing which became clear to me during the visit was that, most of our disabled friends are motivated and are having the drive to see past their disabilities. But their efforts and motivation are stymied due to the lack of proper accessibility. Proper ramps and accesses are missing in most buildings. If we could find a solution to this, we will be able to bring forward a lot of differently abled friends who have great talents and skills beneficial to our society.

During my time at SAHAI, I also decided to form a cricket team consisting of people with disabilities only.  There is another reason for this.  As a kid, I used to love playing cricket. Upon contacting several individuals directly, I found out that there are people who would love to try cricket.  Thus began the training for a few disabled candidates at the Coimbatore Stadium. I was one among them in them. It turned out to be very exciting for everyone. We later started playing cricket on many streets. And finally an organization was founded under the name of “Wheelchair Cricket Association of Tamil Nadu We got approved by the Divyajyan Cricket Control Board of India . In addition to this, on world disability day a wheelchair marathon was organized in Malappuram district for friends with disabilities with more than 100 participants. The marathon and the whole event was a huge success. It demonstrated that disability is not what holds back people like me. It’s the lack of opportunities.

“Everyone deserves a seat at the table.” 

Today, I’m really honoured to be part of Takshan creatives, a venture which opens the door to new possibilities for disabled people by expressing their skills in making handicraft goods. Takshan creatives, based in Kochi, introduces wooden art and gift items which are built by persons with disabilities.

Also, me and a group of differently abled friends founded an organization called   Blue E (please click for FB page)

Our goal is to ensure and improve the accessibility of buildings and infrastructures. Blue E has a team of experts for conducting accesibility audits, design appraisals and revamping existing buildings and infrastructures to suit the needs of people with all kinds of disabilities. Through Blu-E we also plan to branch out into the field of rehabilitation. To improve the quality of life of fellow brothers and sisters and enable them to be capable of chasing their dreams again. 

This year I got recognized as one among “The Real Super Heroes”. This honour was awarded to me by STAR INDIA AWARDS, for striving to motivate the people who are going through the hardships of disability. I firmly believe that, if opportunities are provided, persons with disabilities are actually persons with abilities which could  actually benefit our society and our country.

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