A wheelchair with dreams?

Have you ever seen disabled people in public spaces on a daily basis? The answer would be no as many public places are inaccessible to them and their mobility is affected. The less they are seen in public the less recognition they receive. This is one of the reasons why they are called the ‘invisible minority.’

“Unfortunately, we live in a culture that associates disability with evil deeds and views it as karma—the person must have sinned in the past—so it is seen as a bad thing,” states  Salil Chaturvedi, a renowned poet, fiction writer, and activist. Hence, to alter this concept, bring about a change in society, and sensitise the general public to the needs of the disabled community, Salil has taken the initiative and set up a one-of-a-kind installation at the 5th Edition of Serendipity Arts Festival (SAF) 2022.  

During the festival, as part of the Serendipity Arts Festival Public Art Grant 2022, titled “The Island That Never Gets Flooded”, Salil Chaturvedi will be putting up an installation titled “Places my Chair Likes to Go” at Mandovi Promenade which will display a photo exhibition of places his wheelchair has been to that drives home the message of accessibility.

Salil explains why he thinks this particular idea is important, stating, “The idea matured over time. I believe the idea first came to me when I came across the term “invisible minority,” which had an impression on me. Minorities aren’t noticed because they aren’t present in public places like schools, colleges, movie theatres, or places of art because they are not accessible to such people, one won’t find them. Consequently, the concept of taking a photo of a chair without a person in it was inspired by those ideas regarding visible and invisibleness.”

“Whenever I drive, I have a sense of empowerment. Therefore, I have travelled extensively in the Ghats and across Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, and of course Goa. So, as I travel, I’ve been taking a series of photos whenever a location grabs my attention and I feel compelled to stop and take some pictures. Here, the wheelchair is a persona with desires and dreams. So, wherever my wheelchair desires to click pictures, I have to fulfill it. As a result, a wheelchair can be seen in this piece in several locations, seemingly travelling,” he adds.

Apart from this, Salil also wants to highlight the challenges wheelchair users face along with the importance of the 1:12 ratio inclination of ramps which is a standard inclination ratio around the world. “Disabled people can and want to be independent. People often assume that someone will be there to push the impaired person in the wheelchair up the ramp. However a person with a disability doesn’t want to be helped. Those in a wheelchair want to be able to use a wheelchair without assistance and be able to move around on their own, with dignity, and without a lot of assistance, ” explained Salil. A ramp with a ratio of 1:12 allows a wheelchair bound person to access it without assistance. 

Salil will also read an excerpt from ‘My brother’s wheelchair’,  a book that beautifully conveys the need for a ramp, to audiences especially youngsters at the Art Park, one of the venues at the Serendipity Art Festival in Panjim to educate them about the issue. Sensitising people, especially kids, at an early age will enable them to see and perceive the world from the perspective of persons with disabilities. 

When one begins to interact with disabled persons, one grows more sensitive and aware of public spaces and ensures that they are accessible to wheelchair users. Salil said that he hopes that disabled individuals are able to move in public spaces more frequently so that they become more visible in society. Even if one has no close friends who are disabled, observing someone in a wheelchair and knowing how to manoeuvre the wheelchair up and down stairs is still educational. People should be aware of this need for change and recognize that it will not occur without the active and collective support of people. 

Serendipity Arts Festival is an accessible and inclusive festival. In addition to ramps at all festival venues, the festival will have tactile braille artwork, braille guides, sign language experts, inclusive outreach programmes and on-ground accessibility teams.  

Visit the installation at the Serendipity Arts Festival 2022 from December 15th–23rd to learn more about this issue.

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Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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