Ekansh / Bal Kalyan / DRDF : NO DISABILITIES, INFINITE POSSIBILITIES: The Pune Seminar

Held on 7th & 8th August 2009, Bal Kalyan Sanstha (Seminar Partner)

Seminar preceded by a ‘Universal Design’ Competition for Students of Architecture in Pune in expert collaboration  with DRDF ( Disability Research and Design Foundation), Mumbai and Indian Institute of Architects, Pune.

The winning team  of Tanuja Godse, Pallavi Dhomse and Shraddha Deo was from the BKPS College of Architecture, Pune.

The decision by the jury was unanimous since the winning team had taken into consideration every aspect of Japanese and Barrier Free Design.

The award was handed over by Hon’ble Mayor of Pune, Smt. Rajalaxmi Bhosale.

CONGRATULATIONS B.K.P.S.C.O.A!

7TH August, ( Friday) DAY I  10 A.M. – 4 P.M.

Inauguration and speech by Chief Guest: The Hon’ble Mayor of Pune : Mrs. Rajalaxmi Bhosale

The Mayor very graciously  inaugurated the exhibition and began by lighting the lamp alongwith Shivani Gupta( AccessAbility , Delhi),  Abhishek Ray ( DRDF), Minneta Paatil ( BKS)  and Anita Iyer (Founder – EKansh). Ms. Bhosale said she was glad to be attending a seminar which was different from most others since this dealt with something everybody could use – ACCESSIBILITY – to spaces, to places, to education, to the web….to everything life has to offer.

Abhishek Ray* of DRDF showed the Mayor the designs on display and introduced the significance of barrier free design to her and later, the audience. The Mayor then gave away the award of 25,000 Rupees to the winning team and the trophy to Prof. Natu who’d encouraged and supported his students.  The Mayor also offered to help incorporate features from the best designs in the existing Japanese Garden and has urged EKansh to get in touch with her soon to take this offer forward.

Among our esteemed audience were Mr. Sawant ( Disabilities Commissioner, Pune), Ms. Dhun Adenwalla, Mr. Dorab Adenwalla, Mrs. Rani Parasnis, Mr Satish Mane ( IIA), Prof Gogle  and Mr. Bhagat ( IIA)

The award ceremony was followed by a very touching 15 minute presentation ( a skit,song and dance) by students of  Jyoti Mate who is an expressive art therapist in Pune.

Our esteemed jury members* made their presentations.

Parul Kumtha*  –  She is a faculty member ( Arch) at  the J J School of Arts in Mumbai and has been involved in making heritage structures barrier free in Mumbai. She spoke impressively and convincingly about the basic needs for ramps, accessible signage and other essential featuers of Universal Design.

Radhika Vaidya* -The architect who designed the Athashri Homes and Care Centres ( Paranjpe Builders) in Pune for senior citizens where barrier free features are the mainstay. She explained how often most builders are unaware of or disinterested in designing accessible homes inspite of the fact that these extra features cost next to nothing to incorporate.

Vikas Sharma /Shivani Gupta* – Partners in life and in AccessAbility, Delhi [ Sachin Verma is the third partner who couldn’t be present for the seminar]. Shivani spoke from both sides of the issue being a wheelchair user herself and an architect, she was able to shed a lot of light on barriers most of us would otherwise be unaware of. She effectively summed up the presentations of the speakers preceding her adding her own invaluable insights to the issues related to inclusion.

Divyanshu Ganatra- Visually impaired and a psychologist with a great sense of humour, he explained how GPRS/ GPS would benefit the blind and also the sighted. He also talked about a software cheaply available that all cellphone users could use to plot specific spots and places and help the VI find their way around. He’s invited those interested to contact him directly or through EKansh so he can explain how this can be done.

Mont Vert- Mr. Manish Kaneria, one of our major sponsors for the event and an advocate for wheelchair friendly homes being the brother of a wheelchair user himself,  spoke at length about what is missing in most residential and public buildings. Mont Vert buildings constructed recently are all wheelchair friendly and have large lifts that can accomodate stretchers. He strongly supported our attempt at creating awareness among budding architects and said he hoped things would change so they would suggest the right designs to the builders. The jury members felt this was wonderful coming from a builder. Mr. Kaneria has also offered to support EKansh in all our future efforts.

Advocate Murtaza Chherawala – He connected Barrier Free design and Laws that must be and are already in place. He regretted that Horizon, begun by him with two lawyer friends for free legal aid for the disabled, wasn’t being taken advantage of. He also felt that awareness is the need of the day and hoped that more disabled people would understand and assert their rights to an inclusive environment.

Nilesh Singit at Ekansh Seminar

Nilesh Singit at Ekansh Seminar

Nilesh Singit of DRDF – ‘Activist’ would define him best since he lobbies passionately to destroy all barriers put up by society against the interests of the disabled. He’s a wheelchair user himself with a good sense of humour and a spirit that would embarass a lot of us who consider ourselves not-disabled. He is extremely well versed with international and national laws and movements for the disabled and discussed them with the audience.

We had a special guest from Mumbai, Ferdinand Rodricks who modifies automobiles and spaces to suit the disabled. He talked briefly and modestly about the great work he does. He’s even modified a car for Stephen Hawkings to use while in India.

Our wonderful compere – Kavita Murugkar – a professor of architecture at Dr. Bhanuben Nanavati COA, Pune took us through the proceedings on day I. Thanks Kavita!

The day ended with an informal vote of thanks from EKansh, a chat between all present and exciting plans for a NATIONAL LEVEL competition and seminar on similar lines!!

8th August, 2009 ( Saturday) Day II  10 a.m. to 4 p.m

Inauguration and speech by Chief Guest: Dr. Parag Sancheti, Med. Dir. Sancheti hospital  ( Orthopedics and rehabilitation) Dr. Parag Sancheti and Dr Jyoti from QMTI were introduced by Ms. Bhakti Karia (Founder member-  EKansh).  Dr. Sancheti spoke at length about the need of Barrier Free design and honestly admitted that most features in Sancheti Hospital were thought of and introduced in restrospect. He hoped that things would be different in future with efforts like these to sensitize designers and architects.. He also introduced Dr. Jyoti, a veteran doctor with the QMTI and  Minneta Paatil of Bal Kalyan Sanstha.

Devyani and Pradip from Helen Keller Institute in Mumbai. The presentation was lively and unbelievably educational. Devyani asked the us to close our eyes and imagine a world without sound or light for two minutes thus taking us into the world of the deaf blind. It was disconcerting to say the least. She showed us how touch was their means of communication with the world and her interpreter signed nonstop holding the hands of the deaf blind, translating every spoken word during the day for them. Pradeep used the computer to interact with the audience and crack some jokes as Devyani interpreted for him. It was a moving presentation.

Dr Jyoti and Col. Gupta from QMTI and the PRC at Kirkee gave us a virtual guided tour of their institute and the work they do. It was truly heartening to note the armed forces protect not only our borders and country, they also protect the dignity and rights of their disabled colleagues and families providing vocational training and employment opportunities.

Nisha Grover, founder of Akshar Foundation for the deaf in Vadodra detailed the different laws, amendments, manifestos and disability movements around the world that have been drafted, implemented and argued. She stressed in no uncertain terms on the need for education and equal opportunities in every dimension of life for them. She believes that all academic institutions MUST  cater to special students and that training courses for teachers must include modules on special education…something that EKansh agrees strongly with.

Shilpi Kapoor from Barrier Break Technologies, Mumbai talked about opening up the virtual world for the disabled…the use and availability of technology for those with cerebral palsy to the deaf blind. She also spoke about GPS and other assistive technology. It brought to our notice many things that we take for granted when we use our computers and the world wide web that might not be accessible to the disabled. We realise that our own website might not be accessible to the visually challenged and will ensure that it is as soon as we move to another web-space.

Advocate Mihir Raje from Chherawala Assosiates began the post lunch session with his presentation on Disability Rights and was bombarded with questions from the audience. He handled them all with his lawyer’s tact and has offered unconditional legal support to the disabled.

TISS , Mrs. Sandhya Limaye and her team of 17 excited, enthusiastic, young students arrived from Mumbai to put up an exhilarating skit which demonstrated the frustrations faced by the disabled in most situations in everyday life …from medical aid to matrimony to employment. They ran through these with the speed and skill of veteran actors although this was their first such skit. They even presented a short, effective and informative disability quiz for the audience. Sandhya Limaye introduced in detail the Masters Programme in Disability Studies at TISS.

Atiya Hajee signed for the benefit of the deaf audience  THROUGHOUT the two days of the seminar [A FIRST IN A DISABILITY SEMINAR IN INDIA] and now took center stage with Shafique ( Ishara foundation – Mumbai) to teach the audience a few signs. It was interesting to watch everyone try to guess and learn the signs for everyday words from the experts.

Mrs. Meera Badve of Nivant School for the blind spoke at length about the achievements of her school and her students and underlined the need to mainstream them. She also involved the audience in a Braille demonstration.

We ended the day with a pledge to make inclusion a reality and a thank you note from Anita Iyer and Madhuri Sheth of EKansh.  We were ably supported  by our chairperson for the day, Ms. Deepa Malik…a spirited celebrity in her own right, what with her rallying skills on a four wheel bike, defying her disability and wheelchair dependence. She’s off to her next really next week. Good luck, Deepa!! She interacted beautifully with the audience and presenters and had the EKansh team beaming with her comment that this opportunity had opened up a new world to her and taught her a lot about other disabilities and related work being done around the country. Thanks Deepa!  We had among our esteemed audience on the second day, Mrs. Adenwala, Mrs. Parum Kumtha, Mrs. Radhika Vaidya, Mrs. Limaye, Mrs Kalyani Mandke, Mrs Mandira Banerjee, Mr. Anand Koti, etc. It was heartening to note that some students of architecture were present on the second day as well.

Ekansh

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