From Ginny's Planet to Smart Cookie, different learning tools are helping children with disabilities, paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive society
New Delhi: Meet Ginny! A busy girl, who is curious and loves to have fun. Born with physical challenges, she has a radial club hand and a total of nine fingers in her two hands. She needs to wear thick and heavy spectacles to see well. But Ginny is more than just a doll; her larger purpose is to explain diversity and inclusion to children with learning disabilities.
Behind Ginny’s creation is Shweta Verma, the co-founder of Ginny’s Planet, a social enterprise working since 2019. Shweta has been working as a disability rights and mental health professional since 2002.
Sharing the inspiration behind starting Ginny’s Planet, Shweta says,
“My work in the disability rights, diversity, and inclusion field is not new. But that’s not why I started Ginny’s Planet. It was started after my son was born in 2016 with multiple health conditions and a disability. This got me thinking that while I have been working with adults all my life, there is a need for someone to work with children to help them believe that being different is okay.”
Ginny, the doll, and her story have helped hundreds of children, adapt and get integrated into the mainstream. Since 2019, Ginny has become a friend to over 3,500 children through various forms and workshops. Among them are Sahiba and Guresha.
Talking about the positive change that Ginny brought, Amardeep Kaur, a parent says,
“My younger child wears spectacles and feels self-conscious. She keeps telling me that she doesn’t want to wear spectacles because people make fun of her and she wants to wear contact lenses instead. Then she came across Ginny’s workshop and the message resonated with her – Accept yourself the way you are, don’t make fun of others, but do accept yourself.”
Ginny and her planet hope to build a world where every child believes that they have rights, respect, and choices. And that being different is okay.
Unlike Ginny’s Planet which targets children, another learning and development programme, Smart Cookie, approaches the journey of inclusion from the parents’ perspective. It attempts to share learnings from co-founders Amrit Raj and Sanjana’s parenting journey. Amrit Raj, co-founder of Taabur and Smart Cookie says,
“Very early on, in our parenting journey, my wife and I discovered our daughter had some issues. We realised we were making flashcards on PowerPoint, getting them laminated, and before we knew it, our house was filled with things that we built to teach our daughter. We realised these resources should be made available to other parents as well. Today, we have flashcards that cover the Prime Ministers of India with the actual photographs of the individuals. These are also fairly big cards with a smooth surface, waterproof, and scratch-proof; these also have a QR code and are available digitally. You can download these on your phone, tablets, laptop, etc., So, when you are travelling, you don’t have to carry 20 boxes, these materials are available on your phone or tablets.”
Every child is different and has a unique style of learning. Smart Cookie’s vision is to promote inclusion and spread awareness about the needs of children with special needs because getting the right kind of support can make all the difference. The digital accessibility of their resources makes learning on the go hassle-free for parents.
Both Ginny’s Planet and Smart Cookie share a common mission – to help children understand, from a young age, that societies flourish with diversity and inclusion.
Through their unique approaches, they are sowing the seeds of acceptance, understanding, and celebration of differences, fostering a future where every child feels seen, heard, and valued.
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.