Abled or disabled, adventure awaits
We've had quadriplegics who have stared at the ceiling for 15 years. Now they're doing all kinds of sport - scuba diving, marathons, having fun."
This is the kind of world that Divyanshu Ganatra wants to nurture. Where people with disabilities (PWDs) take part in adventure sports, together with able-bodied people. A grand vision of inclusivity by someone who understands what it’s like to be excluded.
As a teenager, Divyanshu and his friends used to trek across the majestic highlands of India, and partake in all manner of adventures. But when blindness struck at the age of 19 due to glaucoma, the adventures stopped for Divyanshu. He was keen, despite not being able to see, but he was no longer being invited by his friends who didn’t think it would be possible to include him in their expeditions.
India’s disabled community number over 26 million people, a size greater than the population of Australia. From being excluded from activities, to not having the access to jobs despite their credentials, PWDs in India face multiple social handicaps.
“If these handicaps I face are because of the social construct of the world, then the only way to change it, is by changing people's mindsets — by awareness, by education, by empathy,” says Divyanshu.
This vision of change is what drove Divyanshu to create Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF), a non-profit organisation that brings able-bodied people and PWDs on adventures around the world. From scaling the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, to diving the depths of the Indian Ocean, ABBF has brought together over 5,600 people from across the world, to nurture an inclusive ideology.
“Every single employee of Volkswagen [India] has come on treks with us — to be sensitised, to be emphatic. They started hiring people with disabilities... their policies have changed,” shares an excited Divyanshu. “You can learn more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.”