Published: 17th July 2019
Meet Sminu Jindal, who is on a quest to make educational institutions accessible for differently-abled students
Stressing on the need for a change in mindset, Sminu says, “When people become aware, perspectives start changing, and only then, solutions start appearing”
Resilience is a word that perhaps best describes Sminu Jindal, a lady is on a mission to make colleges accessible. Paralysed from waist-down after an accident at the age of 11, she is currently the Managing Director of Jindal SAW. “I have faced challenges, but I’ve had the privilege of being known and money to support me. Excuses won’t help. My belief has always been that if I want something, then I must work for it,” says Jindal, who was recognised as one of the Young Global Leaders in 2009 by World Economic Forum. In the year 2000, Jindal established Svayam, an organisation that works for providing accessibility to people with reduced mobility.
Jindal believes that lack of accessibility kills the joy of learning. Segregation between able and disabled students prevents them from understanding each other
“We approached many colleges with propositions for debates and plays on accessibility, but we haven’t got any positive or enthusiastic responses towards the cause,” says Jindal. She rues the continued apathy towards the issue from educational institutions. An alumnus of Shri Ram College of Commerce, Jindal believes that by looking solely at the cost incurred of making institutes accessible, people forget about the immense loss of opportunity.
Speaking of the issues faced by parents of differently-abled students, Jindal says that they are denied admission on the grounds that teachers will not be able to manage their child or the infrastructure is not suitable. “They are reminded of what their child cannot do and are made to forget that their child can do so many things, just differently. As humans we should understand each other more and be solution-oriented to ensure empowerment and build the spirits of others,” she shares. It is to be noted that Svayam has led important conversation and change around the accessibility of public infrastructure, and in 2009, it created history by making Qutub Minar the first UNESCO World Heritage Site accessible for all. Awarded for its feat with the National Tourism Award for Excellence.
Jindal bears faith in the fact that everyone, regardless of their physical condition, is inherently capable of contributing creatively and economically if given the opportunity and right tools to succeed
Putting the onus on the government and educational institutions to work together towards accessibility, Jindal says that integration of differently-abled students into the mainstream is possible not only with accessible infrastructure, but also through a change of mindset and creating an accessible social environment for every student to reach their full potential.
The essentials of accessibility:
- Ramps must be of the right gradient
- No stairs/steps before elevators
- Doors must be minimum 31 inches wide for wheelchair users
- Step-free entrances to any room or building
- Handrails in toilets
For more on them, check out svayam.com