Nipun was diagnosed with arthrogryposis during his birth, a condition involving multiple joint contractures, where the muscles in his arms and legs remain underdeveloped
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Doctors Declared He Would Have A Life Of A ‘Wooden Doll’, But Life Had Other Plans

Nipun Malhotra has been working as a disability rights advocate for the last decade and co-founded Nipman Foundation, towards making corporate sector inclusive for persons with disabilities

Written By: | Edited By: | February 19, 2024 हिन्दी में पढ़े

New Delhi: “To live as a person with disability is to know an abiding sense of fragility,” says Nipun Malhotra, a Disability Rights Advocate and Founder of Nipman Foundation. A native of Delhi, Nipun has been advocating the rights of People with Disabilities (PwDs), for more than a decade. His decision to establish a foundation for People with Disabilities is the result of years of discrimination he has faced.

Nipun was diagnosed with arthrogryposis during his birth, a condition involving multiple joint contractures, where the muscles in his arms and legs remain underdeveloped.

The doctors had a negative prognosis and outlook for his life and informed his parents that his condition would mean leading a life of a ‘wooden doll’.

But his parents stood up to the challenge and acted like a shield for Nipun every step of the way. From the beginning, they encouraged Nipun to focus on his studies along with participating in quiz and other academic competitions, which helped him gain self-confidence.

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A student with a distinction, Nipun went on to apply for jobs in several companies after completing his Masters in Economics, but he only encountered relentless interrogations by the panellists. Recalling one of the scarring incidents, Nipun said,

Many of the interviewers asked me if I could sit in a wheelchair for eight hours a day, while others did not believe my academic achievements and took an undertaking from the principal to confirm that I actually held these credentials. There have been many such humiliating experiences I have faced.

The Journey Of Establishing Nipman Foundation

It was in 2012 that Nipun decided to stand up for his rights and the rights of other individuals with disabilities and established the Nipman Foundation. Co-founded with his mother, Priyanka Malhotra, Nipman works towards making the corporate sector inclusive for people with disabilities by doing accessibility audits, conducting sensitisation workshops, and much more.

At Nipman Foundation, Nipun has also developed the 3As (Attitudes, Accessibility, and Affordability) framework, through which he has helped many public and private sector organisations and departments become inclusive for People with Disabilities.

The foundation also conducts an annual flagship event, ‘Nipman Foundation: Equal Opportunity Awards’ to honour organisations making significant contributions to individuals with disabilities in the workplace. Additionally, the NipmanFoundation started running a crowd-sourcing platform called ‘Wheels for Life’, to connect donors with those who cannot afford wheelchairs.

Making Zomato An Inclusive Platform For People with Disabilities (PwDs)

As Nipun narrates, it was no less than a social embarrassment when he was denied entry into an upscale restaurant in Delhi in 2015 because he was ‘disabled’. He reached out to Zomato, a popular restaurant aggregator, and advised them to feature an added filter, ‘Disabled-friendly’, so that PwDs would not have to go through the experience he faced. Nipun added,

I did not know that would become a rare feat to achieve. Zomato added the feature, and following this, several other restaurant-searching websites did.

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Achievements As A Disability Rights Advocate

Not only has the 36-year-old established a foundation, he has also worked as a Research Fellow at World Enabled, a Pineda Foundation initiative, and has been a member of the CII National Committee on Special Abilities to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities (PwDs) in the corporate sector.

Additionally, he is the Founder Chair of FICCI’s (Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) subcommittee on Empowering Persons with Disabilities.

He is also the brand ambassador of Umoja Travels, India’s first accessible travel company. Further, Nipun is on the board of directors at Vishwas, a non-profit in Gurgaon working on disability and development.

Progress Made So Far To Build A Disability-Inclusive Environment

India has come a long way when it comes to making an inclusive environment for people with disabilities, Nipun said. He further said,

Whether it is the Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 (DDA) or the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the government of India has worked towards making it unlawful to discriminate against a person with a disability in several areas of public life, including employment, education, getting or using services, renting or buying a house or unit, accessing public places, etc., but we are still far from achieving the goal of leaving no one behind.

Nipun highlighted three major challenges for people with disabilities and roadblocks to achieve the goal of leaving no one behind. These include a stigma associated with disability, that it is the result of bad deeds from past lives, being subjected to multiple deprivations and limited opportunities in several dimensions of life, infrastructural gaps in the healthcare, corporate, or government sectors. Detailing further, Nipun said,

The infrastructures are poorly equipped to support people with disabilities (PwDs). For example, most of the hospitals or government buildings do not have ramps, and there are also often no paved pathways allowing easy access to sitting areas or benches. The public toilets lack proper grab bars to prevent slips and falls, and the washbasins are placed at a standard height that is unsuitable for most of the PwDs.

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Measures That Are The Need of the Hour

The 36-year-old listed out the measures that must be taken into consideration to create an inclusive environment for people with disabilities:

  1. Conduct sensitisation programmes in the rural areas and demolish the stigma associated with people with disabilities (PwDs).
  2. Make disability sensitisation a mandatory subject for medical students.
  3. Conduct access audits in government offices and hospitals.
  4. Conduct training workshops for government officials and paramedics.
  5. Making public places accessible to people with disabilities (PwDs), for instance, means keeping parking spaces close to entrances, floor spaces, and hallways free of equipment and other barriers.
  6. Train staff and healthcare professionals on sign language or have access to someone who can use sign language.
  7. Upgrade school and college buildings with ramps, rails, special toilets, and other necessary changes to suit the needs of individuals with disabilities.

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