Nothing gave away the fact that Avelino de Sa was born with cerebral palsy as he sat behind the desk in his first floor office opposite Panaji Head Post Office.
A certified investment consultant, Avelino de Sa has been self-employed for the last 12 years and has over 100 clients. In 2003 he started the Disability Rights Association of Goa (DRAG; www.disabilitygoa.com) He explains what DRAG is: “It’s a collective of disabled persons. We include all types of disabilities. There are people who are doing various things – working in the government, private sector, self-employed and unemployed.
“An individual finds it difficult to take up and resolve problems. An Association makes an impact. When we approach a department to implement the rights mandated by the State Government, it does something about it. Our Association has received a lot of help from Cidade de Goa, Syngenta Ltd., The International Centre Goa, Travel & Tourism Association of Goa and the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The media has also been very helpful in highlighting our issues.”
“DRAG gets cases where qualified people have been denied promotions or employment because of a disability. Goa has a State Disability Commissioner whom disabled people can approach in case of injustice yet people are not aware about it.”
“DRAG was instrumental in Kadamba Transport Corporation buying two wheelchair accessible buses. It informs builders, colleges, schools about wheelchair friendly architecture. However many temples, churches and mosques are still not accessible to the disabled thereby denying them the fundamental right to worship”.
Avelino is a member of the Local Level (North Goa) Committee of the National Trust of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities.
“My parents didn’t think about any special school or different education for me as in those days there was no choice,” Avelino tells me. “I had to be educated, hence was sent to the nearby school, like my siblings or like any other child. My mother regularly took me to the Spastics Society in Mumbai so that I got the correct kind of physiotherapy and other treatments at the right time.
“At the Red Rosary High School, Mirama, I was expected to do my homework and take tests and exams like anyone else. It wasn’t considered a big deal that I had a physical problem with movement. After my tenth, I did my HSC from the People’s High School, Panjim and my graduation from S. S. Dempo College of Commerce and Economics, Panjim.”
As we talk, Avelino takes notes: “I keep writing whatever comes to my mind, so that later I can tackle the points.” A cupboard shelf is full of trophies that he hasn’t told me about, from the Rotary Club of Panjim Riveira(for Vocational Service to the Disabled, 2009) and other institutions (for exceeding targets
!! for Mutual Funds and other investments). On prodding, he tells me a charming story: “In 1994, I was in the third year of my graduation, in SS Dempo College. My classroom was on the first floor. I requested Principal Bhende to shift me to a ground floor class as I had difficulty in climbing stairs. He shifted the entire division to a room on the ground floor so that I had the familiar faces around me also.”
After a hectic but well-chalked out daily schedule, Avelino, the second youngest of five siblings, surfs the net and listens to gospel and Konkani songs. “I’m not fond of reading; with friends I keep in touch via the mobile phone.
” “I’m involved in Church activities.”
What about the future? “Parents still don’t know where to take their disabled children and flounder in desperate confusion from place to place. Which means that the doctors, too need to be educated about what’s available in Goa, so that they can guide their patients correctly. I leave his office with his assurance that DRAG is working on that.”
(An initiative of Trinayani, a nonprofit NGO founded by Ritika Sahni, the THIS ABILITY articles celebrates the intriguing lives of persons with disabilities. Trinayani works towards Disability Awareness and Support, communicating through workshops/seminars, print, radio, films and other electronic media. Visit www.trinayani.org or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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