Stories in CNN, Time and Indian Express have highlighted how Covid-19 has disproportionately affected people with disabilities. While the pandemic and lockdown has affected all of us, the needs of the disability community have been largely overlooked. Therefore, it becomes a moral imperative for us to do our small bit to shift the imbalance. Covid-19 has forced us to pivot India Inclusion Summit(IIS) to a fully virtual event.
As I’ve written previously: “while my own understanding of disability has grown because of my journey with my disabled son, I have begun to see disability not as a category, but rather a spectrum in which we all occupy a space. With more than a billion people affected by some form of disability, in addition to the growing population of people with age-related infirmities, this is the largest minority on the planet. Consider that there are more people today above the age of 65 than below 5 and 22% of people will be over 60 by 2050. This population cannot be ignored and no one will escape being part of that minority.”
Virtual IIS 2020 will be held across 3 days: 7 November, 21 November and 28 November (all Saturdays, 2 hours each) – 14 November being Diwali is the reason for the break in the series. Do check out our new enhanced website https://indiainclusionsummit.com/ and the detailed agenda. On these 3 days we bring together thought leaders, self-advocates, family members, caregivers, policy makers, elected officials, entertainers and business leaders in an effort to shape a more positive future for people with disabilities and their families, and to advocate for stronger, more inclusive communities.
We have some outstanding speakers lined up, starting with the launch of this year’s IIS by Manasi Joshi, para badminton champion who was on the cover of a recent TIME magazine. We are honored to have Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and IAS officer Ira Singhal sharing their insights on Nov 7th. On the 21st we have Viswananthan Anand playing chess with visually impaired national chess champion Megha Chakraborty. One of the world’s most famous hip hop artists, child prodigy Sparsh Shah will be celebrating the Summit with his rendition of the IIS theme song. And on the 28th we have the Father of the Internet Vint Cerf and the Chairman of Wipro Rishad Premji sharing their thoughts on how corporates, NGOs and social entrepreneurs can together build an inclusive world. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Many have asked me how they can contribute. My answer has been – Just spread the message and increase the awareness. And here is an interesting way to do so.
We recently launched our IIS Mascot, Inclu, for which we have used the latest technology of Augmented Reality (AR). Attached is a picture of Inclu with our ambassador and advisory board member Malvika Iyer. Here’s how each of you can contribute to the Inclusion Movement: You can invite Inclu to your room and click a picture with him, read the Inclusion Pledge, and share your picture with Inclu on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Don’t forget to use the hash tags
The IIS Inclu AR app is available for download at
Friends, these are difficult times, but as the saying goes, “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. We at the India Inclusion Foundation hope that we can light a candle in November – our Month of Inclusion.
Finally, let me share this interesting conversation I had with former election commissioner and biographer of Mother Teresa, Navin B Chawla. Since he has spent a lot of time as a powerful bureaucrat, and in the shadow of the iconic Mother Teresa, I wanted to learn about his personal journey of working with People with Disabilities and what kept him going even at this age. He was quick to point out his biggest lesson from Mother Teresa – when he asked her with what number he should begin his journey of supporting people with disabilities, she replied, “Don’t get lost in numbers; even if the ocean is lessened by a single drop, the work is still worth doing.”
I hope we all contribute to that drop in the ocean!
Based in Palo Alto, VR Ferose heads the SAP Engineering Academy. The mission of the organization is to create the next generation of engineers that are involved in solving some of the most complex problems in the world. He is the founder of the India Inclusion Foundation a nonprofit, aiming to bring the topic of inclusion at the forefront in India. The India Inclusion Summit, The Inclusion Fellowship and Inclusion Platform(Incluzone) are some of the initiatives under the nonprofit.