We live in a society where people with disabilities are looked down upon and treated like outcasts, especially people with intellectual disabilities. 2 % of our total population suffers from disabilities, out of which 0.2 % are intellectually disabled. This percentage converts to 27 lakh people, which is about 1 in every 500 people, a number which can no longer be ignored.
These people have varying levels of IQ, with most of them suffering from multiple disabilities like cerebral palsy, vision impairment, multiple sclerosis, etc. as a complication of their poor brain development. But the question to really ask is, “Are they different from ‘normal’ people?” It is important to give people who are “different” a voice and make them a part of our society, instead of looking down upon them, not giving them any opportunities, and marginalising them.
To make our society a more inclusive one, Jai Vakeel Foundation is working towards spreading awareness on intellectual disability. It also works with such persons to help their education and independence. To break the stereotypes related to disability, the story of Shubham, a student of the Jai Vakeel Foundation, reinforces the idea that people with intellectual disabilities can excel in any field, sometimes even more than people without such disabilities.
Coming from an impoverished background, Shubham lives in a shanty chawl in Lalbaug, living with his parents. Diagnosed with mild intellectual disability (IQ between 59-70), he joined Jai Vakeel at the age of 10, transferring from a Marathi medium municipal school because of his poor academic performance.
Years of hard work by his teachers and therapists paid off, and he started to thrive in school, becoming more focused and calm.
The teachers noticed his aptitude and interest towards sports, and motivated him to participate in sports competitions, winning several medals. The sports teacher identified him as perfect for floor hockey, a team sport also part of the Special Olympics. With dreams of one day representing India, Shubham started training. Over the years, he played at the District, State, and finally the National level! His dream came true with selection to the Indian floor hockey team participating in the 2017 Special World Winter games.
To prepare for this, he went to four gruelling camps, working on his strength, agility, and most importantly, his personality. He participated in the Special Olympics held at Austria in March 2017. The team won the gold medal in their event, making Shubham’s family, school, and the entire nation proud!
The cherry on the cake? Shubham now has a job with Sodexo, a French food services and facilities management company, with various perks. Shubham had very poor sitting retention, behaviour problems, and attention-seeking tendencies. Today, he has proved that his intellectual disability does not stop him from dreaming big, and achieving his dreams. With his job at Sodexo, he will be supporting his family.
To find out how you can help support more children like Shubham, visit the Jai Vakeel website.