Para-athlete who slept on train floor to get top NCPEDP-MUDA award

Mumbai: Acclaimed para-athlete Suvarna Raj — who made headlines in June after she was forced to sleep on the floor of a long-distance train — has been selected for the prestigious NCPEDP-Mphasis Universal Design Award for 2017, an official said here on Wednesday. Suvarna, 34, hailing from Nagpur and settled in New Delhi after marriage, is an internationally renowned table-tennis player though she was afflicted by polio when she was only two years old.

In June, while travelling on the Nagpur-Nizamuddin Garib Rath, she was compelled to sleep on the floor after the railways and co-passengers refused to give her a lower berth in exchange for the upper berth allotted to her. Shortly after the incident created a nationwide furore and embarrassment for the railways, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on June 11 ordered an inquiry into the treatment meted out to her. Ironically, Prabhu will hand over the NCPEDP-MUDA honours to Suvarna and other winners from all over the country at a function in New Delhi on August 14. Globally known disabled rights activist and international Chairman of Disabled Peoples’ International, Javed Abidi is the head of NCPEDP — the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People in the country.

“Suvarna is a passionate supporter of improved accessibility for disabled persons and has done a lot of advocacy to make public places and buildings accessible for all,” Abidi commented. Besides filing RTIs and cases against central and state disability commissioners, Suvarna — who is an Access Auditor for Accessible India Campaign — has audited 139 buildings around the country on their accessibility and her report is pending implementation, he said.

Besides Suvarna from Delhi in the individuals category, the other recipients of the 8th NCPEDP-MUDA 2017 are Aqil Chinoy of Mumbai (Maharashtra); Dr Homiyar Mobedji of Ahmedabad (Gujarat); Vivek Mehta of Panchkula (Haryana); Hemang Mistry of Valsad (Gujarat); Parikipandla Narahari, an IAS officer and Collector of Indore (Madhya Pradesh); Dr Ramesh C. Gaur, university librarian of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi; and Siddhant C. Shah of Mumbai.

In the category of corporates, organisations and government, the awardees are GingerMind Technologies, Bangalore (Karnataka); Hear2Read, a Text To Speech multilingual software; Intuit India of Bengaluru; UMOJA, Mumbai, which is India’s first travel portal specifically for disabled persons, enabling them to travel anywhere with ease and confidence in India and other parts of the world.

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