Sports has always been the fountainhead of positive change, beyond geographical and cultural boundaries. India’s performance at this year’s Rio Olympics has been pleasantly surprising, especially as the women of our country came out with power packed performances. A relatively lesser known fact is that the Indian Paralympic contingent registers more wins than the able-bodied participants. They had a staggering number of 173 wins in the 2015 LA Special Olympics.
Keeping with this feel, members of team Ketto got in conversation with Indian para-athlete, cyclist and inspirational celebrity Aditya Mehta. A Limca Book record holder and Asian cycling champion, Aditya runs the Aditya Mehta Foundation, India’s first and only NGO that supports Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) to take up sports as a means of personal coping and livelihood generation. With an international presence, they do so through a series of counselling sessions, camps, engagement drives, programs and various other activities.
Here are 4 path-breaking ways in which Aditya Mehta is revolutionising the society for differently-abled sportspersons in India:
Aditya has been ardently advocating for PWD-friendly infrastructure, in an attempt to make spaces as inclusive as possible.
“When I look 10 years back, I had lost all hope after my amputation. Going to the mall was difficult, as people had to carry me on their shoulders. Now I see people have started having ramps in malls and everything. People are also coming up with different concepts for PWD (Persons With Disabilities) friendly malls with ramps, washrooms etc.”
Giving India It’s First Batch Of Qualified Classifiers
“In a developing country like ours, there is shortage of qualified professional classifiers”, says Aditya. “Any para-athlete who wants to play an international tournament must obtain a classification certificate for categorisation of matches on the basis of the kind and extent of disability before s/he can play any championship. As of now, a player has to travel abroad for the same.”
Aditya’s next big goal is to sponsor classifier certification courses for 4 to 5 physiotherapists, so that any athlete who wishes to compete isn’t compelled to spend on travel abroad in the absence of locally present classifiers. This would be the first batch of qualified classifiers in India!
Addressing The Need For Sponsors
The most important challenge today is the fact that para athletes need sponsors. However, the Aditya Mehta Foundation has managed to change that reality. They receive support from many celebrities who believe in the cause of the foundation. They are also running fundraisers for various causes on Ketto, where anyone who believes in their cause can support and contribute.
Changing mindsets around disability
We always tend to look at a PWD with sympathy, as if they are disabled. Aditya is changing that understanding too. “People who showed me sympathy and called me bechara, now I call them bechara. They can’t do the things that I can do. Ask an able bodied to ride with me for my warm up. I am sure they will go home and sleep for 2 hours after. I truly believe that it is not about your body, it’s about your mind.”
“In three years, we have counselled 500 to 600 people, including 350 BSF jawans. The kind of appreciation we get, the smiles we see on people’s faces – that is life I feel.”
Sports changes lives. Not only is it a source of physical and psychological strength, but also the means to achieve the self and social dignity that everyone deserves to live with. If you feel that the achievements of our para-athletes deserve your love and support, you can share or donate to one of the multiple fundraisers that Aditya Mehta Foundation has started for para- sports.
Want to know more about Aditya Mehta and his work? Find out all the information here.