‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities’- Dumbledore’s golden words to teen Harry have touched and inspired everyone at one or the other point in their lives. I have my own version of this inspirational quote-‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities or our disabilities’
I am Apoorv Om, a Deaf, 23 years old, an Artist, a student of B.Arch at School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), New Delhi, Innovator of hanging 2D/ 3D models of buildings and creative artwork and a certified yoga trainer. I got special Honors from UN Leaders and Govt. of India personalities. I am also the recipient of National Award for Persons with Disabilities, 2017 in Role Model category; National Gaurav Awards’17; National Education Leadership Awards the Asia Pacific Higher Education Summit’18, And the Global First Ever ‘Deaf’ Youth as peace leader (India) in 2nd international Volunteering conference of UNESCO. It is a long story before my identity became the one of its kind as an artist, volunteer and disability rights activist. My disabilities such as being deaf, speech impairment, retinitis pigmentosa and an eye disorder had presented insurmountable challenges and I continue to struggle to lead a normal life despite many achievements. I have not allowed hearing impediment & visual impairment to dampen my championing of UN as a global platform for an inclusive society.
India lags behind in providing support, policies, and infrastructure which promotes quality education for a person with disabilities. I completed my schooling from Navy Children’s School with the Inclusive education system in spite of great hurdles and lack of communications due to non-facilitation of modern smart classes with digitalization but the bigger troubles began when I had to pursue my higher education. I was denied admission to CIC, Delhi University and JOSAA for NIIT, despite my merit in IIT JEE because of mismanagement. Finally, they allowed me to take admission in School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi only after The Order of The Hon’ble High Court of Delhi. Even after admission, the SPA asked my father to withdraw my admission as they had no system to facilitate education to the deaf. Still, SPA has no such system in place though they extracted full fees without any concession from a disabled student. Also, I am the first deaf who successfully completed two certificate course in yoga courses from MDNIY, Delhi.
This incident was an eye-opener for me. So many meritorious students lose out on quality education and have their dreams trampled upon due to one disability. According to Census 2011, there are 2.68 crore persons with disabilities in our country who exhibit great diversity in terms of quantum of disability as well as types of disabilities.
I decided to bring respective authority’s attention to make education inclusive for disabled, so I wrote to the Union HRD ministry for two years. I was disheartened when I did not receive any response but I continued writing. This time I wrote to the UN and much to my surprise, they responded. I am now a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) Youth Volunteer and through various youth conferences and discussions in personal meetings with higher authorities of UN & India for digitization inclusive system in education and unique ID CARD, I have tried to raise awareness and bring the disabled rights issues and concerns to the table also given suggestions for solution which were admired.
I had the honor to present portraits to many internationally and nationally acclaimed personalities like Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi on 1st International Day of Yoga; Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India; Mr. Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General; Deputy Director-General of UNESCO; Cabinet Minister of India; 6 Chief Justice of Countries; Mr. Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Laureate; Governors of India and Sachin Tendulkar.
H.E.Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary-General on 20.04.2016 honored me by receiving my artwork and Mr. Dalveer Bhandari (Indian judge), Judge of ICJ with the Mr. Ronny Abraham, President of ICJ Invited me and received My Special Painting to The President of ICJ on the event of 70th Anniversary of the International Court of Justice (United Nations) at Peace Palace, The Hague, Netherlands in April 2016. A painting of UNOG Building is placed in UNOG, Geneva, Switzerland in Sept 2017 by Director General of UN Office at Geneva. My 2D model of UNESCO HQ Building has been installed at the main exhibition hall at UNESCO HQ, Paris; I had presented it to Director-General of UNESCO on 20.04.2018. I also decided to use my sketching skills to gather people’s attention. I presented a 2D model of Supreme Court of India Building to Chief Justice of India H L Dattu and placed at Supreme Court Museum of India in 2015.
I give yoga as well as Art & Craft lesson on weekends to many children from underprivileged sections of society. My efforts have been helpful in bringing some attention to the matter and in one of the conventions, the HRD Minister has assured to support my admission in IIT and provide further education support.
I am still miles away from achieving my goal and receiving my basic right to education and leading a normal life. But I will continue making my efforts, through my portraits and representing the disabled class in international and national platforms.
India needs firm laws in place to support the disabled, or else let the headline (as put by one newspaper) remain true- ’No country for the Disabled’
Apoorv Om – Young Artist Working for SDG