|Ritu Kumari poses for a photograph after a performing in the "Ability Exhibition" on World Disability Day Dec. 3 in New Delhi (ucanews.com photo)|
Ritu Kumari is set to represent India in the Special Olympics 2017 World Winter Games to be held in Austria. She specializes in floorball, a type of field hockey.
What makes her unique is that the 20-year-old woman has a mental disability. Happy to be part of the Indian Olympic team, Kumari, who comes from Rohtak district in Haryana state, said she worked hard to reach this far.
"I will try to do my best," said Kumari, who does not talk much due to her condition and prefers to nod her head in agreement or disagreement.
Volunteers from Chetnalaya, the social service wing of Delhi Archdiocese, who work with Kumari said that her communication skills have improved since learning to make jewellery, one of the programs they offer people with disabilities.
Sunita Kumari, who works for Chetnalaya in Rohtak said that Ritu could not complete her studies due to her disability but "we saw her interest in sports and encouraged her to follow that."
As part of Chetnalaya's Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, Sunita identifies people with disabilities in the locality and helps them access treatment and become more self-reliant through skills training and coaching.
They also help people get disability certificates from government hospitals, making them eligible for state welfare schemes and travel concessions.
Currently, Chetnalaya has 21 CBR centers in Delhi and Haryana states, where its volunteers are assisting some 4,000 disabled children.
Father Savari Raj, director of Chetnalaya, told ucanews.com that volunteers visit people with disabilities in the area. "In some cases, where it is needed, they also counsel family members how to best look after them."
Since medical facilities are not easily available in remote places, "we even train parents and siblings in physiotherapy to help a family member with disabilities. We want to make sure that no disabled person is abandoned or neglected," he said.
The church agency refers people with disabilities to government hospitals to get calipers and tricycles after they get their disability certificate from the government.
Salma (who goes by one name) from New Delhi, is benefiting from the disability certificate she got with the help of CBR volunteers.
The certificate "gives me visibility. With this, hospitals and other government institutions do not ask me for proof of my disability," Selma told ucanews.com.
To increase visibility and provide a platform to showcase their skills, Chetnalaya organized an "Ability Exhibition" on World Disability Day on Dec. 3 in New Delhi.
This year's exhibition featured some 1,000 children with disabilities from Delhi and Haryana taking part in the programs. They sang, danced and showcased handcrafted items they produced such as artificial jewellery, toys, clothes and jute bags.
Seven other NGOs working for the rights and empowerment of people with disabilities also took part in the event.
According to a 2011 census, India has some 26 million people with various disabilities. Of them, about 14 million are male.
India proposed a Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill in 2014 to replace an earlier act passed in 1995. The bill, now pending in parliament, seeks to allow people with disabilities to access benefits such as reserved spots in education and employment.
"Thousands of people like Kumari are waiting for the passage of the bill as it will empower them to demand education and jobs with dignity, and live a normal life," Sunita said.
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