Meet the Delhi-based Specially Abled Bikers' Group ‘Eagle’, which has covered over 50,000 kilometres criss-crossing India in their quest to empower people with disabilities
New Delhi: Travel for Aameer Siddiqui and his team of riders goes beyond pleasure, their expeditions are with a purpose. These specially abled riders are on a mission to transcend the miles and spread the message to integrate people with disabilities into the societal mainstream. The Delhi-based Specially Abled Bikers’ Group ‘Eagle’ travels across India on their retrofitted scooters customised to suit their riding needs. The group recently concluded a 5,500-kilometre journey to the Northeast and back. But not the one to rest on their laurels and with no time to spare to recover from the exhaustion of their long ride, the team is gearing up for another challenging weekend. This involves a ride on the expressway with 100 other people, a cricket match, and a fashion show by people with disabilities. All of this with one difference.
From record-setting journeys to challenging societal norms, they’re not just riding; they’re paving paths of inclusivity and empowerment for all. There are a number of social issues which drive them. Aameer Siddiqui, Founder, Eagle Specially Abled Riders says,
“Every wheelchair user, every individual with 100 per cent disability, girl or anyone travelling with us, deserves to see the world.”
For Govinda Kanojia, Secretary, Eagle Specially Abled Riders, riding isn’t just a pastime; it’s therapeutic. He says,
“Riding is a therapy. If you are upset or stressed, even a short ride has the power to refresh you. And it gives you confidence too.”
Elaborating on their grassroots approach, Aameer Siddiqui says,
“We don’t go to five star hotels, instead we stay with local NGOs. Our aim is to make people aware about persons with disabilities and to encourage the persons with disabilities. One way to encourage them is to interact with the local NGOs who work for people with disabilities, to conduct seminars, and conferences. We tell them our story about how we travel about 2,000 km-4,000 km, so why can’t they get out of their houses?”
Their commendable efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. Having covered over 50,000 kilometres criss-crossing India in their quest to empower those with disabilities, the Eagle Specially Abled Riders have set the record for the World’s Longest Accessible Awareness Ride along the way. They have been honoured, awarded and recognised by governments, institutions and NGOs alike and have been covered extensively in the media as well.
But while they try to help people in need, as they did during COVID-19 pandemic, and raise awareness around issues including the importance of education and women empowerment, the rides always face a common roadblock – the lack of accessibility on the highways. Sandeep, Member, Eagle Specially Abled Riders says,
“The uneven roads make it very difficult for us to ride. Our vehicles move and vibrate a lot due to the bumps in the road.”
Another member of the biker group, Rakhi Pandey, shed light on challenges faced by female wheelchair users during rides. She says,
“It is easier for men to use public toilets etc. But for us wheelchair women, if we are going for a ride, we face a lot of problems. We are not comfortable to go with anyone. So, our biggest challenge is finding suitable public washroom facilities.”
Yet, amidst these challenges, the Eagle Specially Abled Riders remain undeterred. In their pursuit of making people with disabilities visible, the Eagle Specially Abled Riders are reaching out for something fundamental, a potential that resides in each one of us. And that starts from within the team itself. Aameer Siddiqui says,
“This is not just a group, it is a family. The only way we can turn our disability into something bigger, is through education.”
By stepping out of their comfort zone, the Eagle Riders group continues to break through the glass ceiling and make a difference to the lives they touch, one pit stop at a time.
Samarth by Hyundai in partnership with NDTV, is an initiative that seeks to promote inclusivity, change perceptions, and enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities.