Wheelchair-bound girl lives scuba diving dream


By Jamil Khan | DUBAI

SHOBHIKA KALEA, a 26-year-old wheelchair-bound girl based in Dubai, has achieved her dream of scuba diving at Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, a task that did not come easily, considering that she had a degenerative disorder which was detected at 13.
Kalra’s life has been full of challenges as she sought to follow her peers’ path of, among others, studying and getting a good job. “Things are different and difficult. Although I have done all this, my body did not allow me to do it perfectly. I had to decide on the way things should work out for me,” she said in a recent email interview with The Gulf Today.
As a result of the degenerative disorder, she has been wheelchair-bound for many years. However, this has not stood in her way of pursuing her life’s ambitions. She is currently working with Eduscan as a product development executive, runs a beauty blog and heads a social initiative called Wing Of Angelz.
Kalra and her sister, Ruchika Kalra, founded Wings Of Angelz two years ago. The initiative aims to make the world more wheelchair accessible. “We’ve managed to convince over 500 places to become wheelchair accessible. These include key organisations such as RTA, Emirates NBD, and Bab Al Shams, among others. This initiative is in line with Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision of making Dubai a differently-abled friendly city by 2020,” she said.img-20161129-wa0005
Responding to a question regarding the spreading of awareness about the challenges of wheelchair bound people, she said, “The blog is a result of the activities of Wings of Angelz. We have a database of the places that do not have ramps. We approach and speak to the organisation about building a ramp. We follow up the issue till there is a ramp. Thereafter, we go and thank the organisation. We have Ramp Days twice a year, during which everyone who wants to volunteer with Wings of Angelz is welcome.”
Kalra’s sister got her scuba certification in 2014 and encouraged her to chase a similar dream, despite it appearing so big to achieve. “I regularly practised swimming for a month prior to the date of the scuba dive. I got a lot of support from my family and friends as my parents accompanied me to the pool every evening. On the other hand, my sister kept on encouraging me, while my friends made sure I was in high spirits all the time. They came to cheer me up at the event,” she explained.
Kalra said her scuba diving feat has helped draw attention towards the issue of wheelchair accessibility. “In water I was a completely different person as I had no barriers in my way to achieve feats like these, which are otherwise very difficult for an ordinary person. The message I am trying to convey is that if I get the same type of access,  which is a barrier-free, wheelchair accessible world, then I will be able to achieve much more; I believe I will be able to convey this message with this brave achievement of mine,” she added.
On her upcoming plan to raise awareness about wheelchair accessibility, she pointed out that “we have shot a 45-second film mannequin challenge video which has gained a lot of popularity, with 90 organic shares in two days after posting it online. We have recently done a training session with Uber in which we spoke to their drivers about how they can support a wheelchair-bound passenger.”
“Furthermore, we are working with Zomato to introduce the wheelchair accessible icon by sharing a database of restaurants, where we are assured wheelchair accessibility,” she said.
-Published in The Gulf Today

~ by jamilkhan on December 11, 2016.

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