People didn't think a woman with a disability needed an education. She proved them wrong.

Over 1 billion people live with a disability.

Yeah, billion with a "b."

And while that means about 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disability, many individuals are still subject to prejudice and ignorance.


Accion shared one woman's story and took a closer look at what can be done to support people with disabilities in the populous, immense, and culturally complex country of India.

Image via Accion Global/YouTube.

24-year-old Reshma Babu is a successful young woman, but her future didn't always seem so bright.

Before she was 6 months old, Reshma contracted polio and lost the use of both of her legs. Not long after, both of her parents died, leaving the vulnerable infant in the care of her aunt, Parveen.

Her aunt paid her tuition and accompanied her to school each day through 10th grade. Neighbors would ask Parveen why she even bothered to educate Reshma.

All images via Accion Global/YouTube.

But Parveen never gave up, and luckily, neither did Reshma.

In a country where many people with disabilities have limited employment opportunities, Reshma was able to find a job she loves.

Reshma got a position with Vindhya, a data entry and customer support company. She works in the call center, fielding more than 170 calls a day.

Vindhya stands out because nearly 80% of their employees are people with physical challenges or vision or hearing impairments. The company began as a small, family-run business and now boasts clients like Yahoo, MetLife, and multiple Indian micro-finance organizations.

But their commitment to equal opportunity and promoting social justice is what has set them apart on the global landscape and what continues to help them exceed expectations and remain profitable.

Reshma is one of an estimated 40 to 60 million people in India living with a disability.

For a little perspective, that's five to seven times the population of New York City.

Negative assumptions about people with disabilities are so deep-seated in much of the culture in India, especially in rural and poor areas, that some schools won't even accept students with disabilities because they believe the children are incapable of the work.

"A lot of families keep their disabled children behind closed doors because they are embarrassed," said Shanti Auluck, a mother of a child with Down syndrome living in New Delhi, told The Guardian.

In addition to companies like Vindhya, many nonprofits and agencies in India are working to ensure everyone has a shot at success.

The Association of People with Disability, based in Bangalore, runs community learning centers and a school for children with disabilities, complete with interactive classroom technologies, sports programs, and art. They also offer a community mental health program and provide wheelchairs and orthotics to people in need.

Another organization, Parivaar, is a collective of parents' groups and NGOs working to improve the lives of people with disabilities throughout India. It's an invaluable resource for parents and caregivers looking to assist their children with special needs.

And last year, Indian people with disabilities got a much needed legal boost.

In 2014, India established The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, which accounts for 19 conditions and disabilities, including autism and multiple sclerosis — up from seven conditions in the 1995 legislation it replaced.

The bill confers certain rights to people with disabilities, including access to polling places, public buildings, and hospitals. The legislation also provides for 5% reservations in government offices and post-secondary schools for people with disabilities.

The bill requires ramps and other accommodations in new public buildings.

It's not a perfect bill, but many advocates are excited about the change.

"It means people with mental disabilities in particular have the right to hold a job, have the right to open a bank account, and no one can tell them 'no' because of their disability," disability rights activist Javed Abidi told The Guardian.

Disability or not, all of us want to be treated with dignity and respect.

Access to education and rewarding work are a large part of that. Supporting businesses and organizations that push for equal opportunities is a great way to do your part.

Across the globe or around the corner, everyone deserves a chance to live the life they imagined.

Hear Reshma tell her story in this short video from Accion International.

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As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

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via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

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"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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