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Poonam Vaidhya

Updated: Nov 15, 2018


Poonam Vaidhya


My experiences at the First Indian Congress for People With Disabilities

When I first heard about the World Congress for Persons with Disabilities in Russia, I was very keen to go and signed up to do so. But the remote location and unavailability of someone who could accompany me were factors that conspired to make it impossible, so I withdrew my application. However, when I saw that the Congress was being held in India, in fact close to my city Bangalore, I went ahead and applied immediately.

I was I think the only person who didn't know a soul on arrival as I had come alone and had no contact with the other attendees before this. This fact, however enabled me to make friends instantly out of desire as well as necessity. At the end of my three day stay at the Congress, I had made it a point to talk with almost everyone and learn everyone's names.

Being one of the two blind people at the Congress, I was a minority in the minority. Things like audio description on videos, announcing one's name before speaking and audio sign boards that are permanent fixtures in blind-specific events like the conventions of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) were not present. Neither was Braille on doors, menus or entrances. In my usual style, I rattled off all these shortcomings to those in charge.

Still, I must say I wasn't a bit disappointed that I turned up. I wandered around Karl Kübel institute without any fear and enjoyed myself on the last night, where we had an impromptu campfire-like gathering under the stars where we talked and sang. I enjoyed meeting people with disabilities different from mine who required other adaptations but were like me in spirit. I was sensitised

to the unique challenges of different disabilities and could marvel at the fact that we were different yet the same.

We went for a concert and to a biodiversity park. The two outings which were interesting because of the stir we all created when we went out together as people with disabilities.

I am hoping to have the second Indian Congress for People with Disabilities as more accessible event with lots of disabled people who can learn and have fun together whilst feeling free, safe and included no matter what the disability.

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© Indian Congress for Persons with Disability, 2018