Chennai, March 29: On March 26-27, 2021 the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai, in collaboration with non-profit organization Pravah, sponsored a virtual workshop titled “Creating Disability-Friendly Sports Ecosystems.” The workshop was led by New Delhi-based Pravah and Indian alumni of the U.S. Department of State’s professional exchange programs – International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) – and Global Sports Mentoring Program. U.S. exchange alumni Justin Jesudas, CEO of The Spinal Foundation, and Simy T.A., Vidya Sagar Special Education Centre pediatric physiotherapist, co-designed the workshop to raise awareness and commitment to an inclusive and disability-friendly sports ecosystem in India. The Tamil language workshop also availed Indian Sign Language interpretation.
During the workshop, a group of 30 diverse participants, including government officials, educators, teachers, NGO representatives, corporate sector supporters, and individuals working for inclusive development developed strategies to promote inclusive sports ecosystems, tools and action plans.
Moulik Berkana, Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai, said “Supporting inclusivity and equal access to opportunities are important shared values between our two democracies. I am inspired by the work of our local partners to advance disability rights in India in spite of the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
Justin Jesudas shared the history of the parasports movement, emphasizing that society’s support of parasports raises awareness about the importance of a barrier-free sports environment for people with disabilities. Justin said, “In India, there are over 30 million people with disabilities, most of whom do not know that they can pursue sport either for recreation or competition. I am here to advocate for a more inclusive India and empower people with disabilities through sports.”
Pediatric physiotherapist Simy T.A. shared real-time examples of sports like Boccia and adaptive cricket to create an enabling environment for adaptive sports. She said, “To create an inclusive world, I am creating adaptive games to match the abilities and difficulties of each player so that equal participation is ensured.”