An Article by R.Sathish Kumar
Follow the Journey of Activist Sathish Kumar , who has done Scuba Diving and Paragliding . An Event Organiser for Persons with Disabilities for Boccia Tournaments ( Paralympics Sport ). He now has his sight set on Driving a Customised Accessible Car.
I am R.Sathish Kumar, Person with Disability affected by Cerebral Palsy from birth.
I joined in Vidyasagar school (Formerly The Spastic Society of India) in 1992 at the age of 5 years & studied there till 1999. Before that I was regularly going to K.K.Nagar Hospital for Physiotherapy without any education. In 1999, I joined a mainstream school (Shanthinikethan Mat Hr Sec School) at Sembakkam. There I studied till my 12th standard, later i finished B.com & MBA at Sivet College at Gowrivakkam near my home. Initially the management was not ready to admit me as a person with disability but later after staff from Vidyasagar school explained about me everything, the management was ready to admit me in school as well as in college. These initial doubts, hesitations and rejections are a common scenario which persons with disabilities face. Society still finds it hard to accept that a student with some challenges , can perform like all other students , provided their requirements are met. After the initial hesitation , I was accepted in the School and the College. I would say I was lucky that I had a good set of friends , who were very helpful in the college days.
Once I finished my B.COM & MBA degree, I attended many interviews for job but many refused to hire me due to my disability & mobility within the office. I was qualified , but my disability was the first thing people used to see , and decide whether I would be capable of performing . Six months after I finished MBA degree in Dec 2011, I got a chance to work at Callidai Motor Works (wheelchair Manufacturing Company). There I joined as Marketing Executive initially & use to speak with customers through phone & mail regarding new order. My performance was recognized at the Office, and later after six months, I was promoted as a Marketing Head where I used to control all marketing activities. For the One and half years I worked there. I used to go the company’s showroom which was at 1st floor. The staff had helped my very much by lifting me to upstairs daily. The company provided me Automatic Wheelchair to use inside the office for my mobility and daily activities there. The Company was happy with my work, and I too was performing to the best there – I felt I was doing justice to the post and to the work. Inspite of the office being nearly 15kms away from my home, I daily travelled with my Brother-in-law in Bike in mornings, and in the evening I took an Auto.
I had been planning to get into Banking Services. While I continued to work, I was also preparing for bank exams (IBPS) simultaneously.
It was one of my major achievements that I cleared the Bank Exams and got selected.
Later in July 2013 I got placed in Corporation Bank as a SWO-A Clerk. Once I got the job, I requested my higher authorities to place me nearer to my home. Luckily the Bank accepted my request , and now the Branch where I work, is situated around 3kms from my home. I daily travel by Auto to Bank. I purchased Automatic Wheelchair for my better mobility inside the bank. At the entrance of my branch, there are 2 steps, for which I made a small Foldable Aluminium Ramp by myself. Other than this, my branch is fully accessible including the Bathroom floor. I just use a small extra wooden Board to keep the keyboard to work as an adaptation, I pull it whenever required. My Colleagues who work with me are very helpful & adjust with me in all the work related matters. There are some compromises which we need to do , and some acceptances are needed. I have learnt to face certain truths , accept , and move forward with the available resources and strengths. And I have seen amazing results – when you harness your strength and aim at achieving something which is an achievable target. My openness has helped me stay connected with good friend circle , and also be accepted in other circles like society , office etc.
My journey helped me understand the difficulties the persons with disabilities face – education , career , society etc . I am very keen on spreading an awareness on the need for full inclusion in all walks of life . At every opportunity I get, I speak on the need for Inclusion and about the Rights of Persons with Disabilities .
I am also part of Ektha (Disabled People Organisation) as a Co-Ordinator in developing Boccia (Paralympic Game) in India. Initially I went to play the Boccia game as a player but later with great interest created out of it, I got so involved in this game that I joined the organizing team to coordinate all activities related to the game. As some achievements I would like to add that I have also conducted numerous Boccia workshops at different places, along with organizing 3 State Level Tournaments & National Level Tournament for the Boccia Game.
One thrilling event which I organized was – Scuba Diving Training Program for Persons with Disabilities in a swimming pool in Chennai, which gave many of them a huge excitement. This got many persons involved. Giving utmost attention to the safety aspect , everyone had a splash. And everyone is eagerly waiting for the next event.
Another happy achievement was being part of Organizing Team for creating Accessible Pathways in Marina Beach on World Disability Day. This was highly appreciated by the Authorities as well as different Support Groups. It was a really thrilling full week activity with so many persons visiting the Beach and using Beach Wheelchairs. Some of the persons were reaching the shore and touching the water with their feet for the first time in their life.
I am an adventurous person – I have also participated in Inclusive Adventures activities of Disabled Open Air performance hanging in a rope, 40 feet height from ground conducted by Graeae Theatre Company from UK in 2018. I have been enjoying travelling to many places & would love to do more. I also used to travel in Chennai Metro Rail alone without anyone help, which is being the first Public Accessible Transport in Chennai. My next dream is to find Car driving mechanism with Joystick Operation as normal car modifications will not suit me. Then I will be travel freely anywhere.
A personal achievement I treasure is – where I started my first steps , there today I am a Governing Body Member of Vidya Sagar (NGO for Persons with Disabilities).
At the time Covid-19 crises, even though person with disability are exempted from working at bank, I used to go to bank in my motorized wheelchair itself for 2kms weekly 2 or 3 days. I didn’t want to be idle.
For persons with disabilities, there are many hurdles in the society. We got to face them, keep our focus on our missions or goals , and keep going forwarding strongly believing …………”It’s Possible “