Struck by a spinal and head injury six years ago in 2014, Jaipur boy Prateek Khandelwal lost every promise life held; an emerging business, friends, a girlfriend -- in short, every aspect of a normal life.
The accident that took place in Bangalore caused a major upheaval in the family too as his family shifted to Bangalore where treatment facilities were much superior to Jaipur. Due to his injuries Prateek not only faced the challenge of being confined to a bed, but also social isolation. It was long treatment and long hours of ardous, rigorous training that helped him reach a stage where he could move around in a wheelchair; but the social isolation turned out to be his biggest challenge.
Prateek wanted to go out, but the question was - how and where?
He is confined to a wheel chair -- and most public places where he could go to were not specially-abled-friendly. The stairs and heavy doors, untrained, unsentized staff made it quite difficult. To address this he started an initiative – ‘Ramp My City’ - to build ramps in hotels, restaurants and cafes in Bangalore.
“A specially abled person will bear all discomfort to go to places where he has to; like hospitals, banks etc. But societal pressure in form of awkward questions and stares apart from the uncertainty of being able to cope stops him to go out and enjoy a meal or meet friends at a coffee shop. I wanted to make things easier for me and more people like me,” Prateek Khandelwal told FPJ.
He started the initiative in 2018 and today over 30 Bangalore restaurants are part of his campaign. They have allowed Prateek to train and sensitize their staff to help the specially abled.
Today over two dozen persons – all confined to wheel chairs are part of Prateek’s campaign and they make it a point to go out to public places. “We want public places to have facilities for us. And this will sustain only if we go out. People come up to me in restaurants and express happiness. Many tell me about a family member who has confined himself to the home and that they would see to it that he / she too goes out. This is the real success of my campaign – changing mindset and attitudes. This is the theme of my foundation - I Break The Barrier”The team is now in the process expanding its work to tier two and tier three cities and Prateek has initiated work in Jaipur - his home town. “Jaipur is a tourist destination and has innumerable hotels of all categories. I hope to make a change here. Also in the pipeline is a project to train cab drivers and bus drivers to be sensitive to our needs. I look forward to a time when our special needs will be commonly addressed by the society at large,” said Prateek with a hopeful smile.