“There isn’t enough legislation to create a conducive environment for disabled people in society. We need to change that.”
In 2002, a fatal road accident took the life of his father and left young Yaeesh in hospital with an ailing leg. What may have been curable at the time, took a turn for the worse due to medical negligence, rendering Yaeesh permanently disabled.
Being rendered immobile made this once active youngster feel dejected and desperate for a change in his environment that would allow him greater mobility and less dependency. His plight also made him more aware of the difficulties others with disabilities could be facing, prompting him to explore the issues and possible solutions to empower people with disabilities.
His new-found mission took him to a meeting of disabled persons in the area, where he soon realized that the community was much larger than he had ever imagined and that he had to do something to make their lives better.
Yaeesh took on an active role in the Nawasahana Disabled Peoples Organisation (DPO), which had begun in 2001, and was soon nominated as its Trustee. His vision for the community and his drive saw him appointed as its Chairperson shortly after.
His main objective is to lobby for the rights of disabled people in the area and to help improve their living conditions. He has also leveraged the support of local government agencies to obtain funds, though very limited, to construct basic access roads to the homes of disabled persons. Some of these were unmotorable, rough and dilapidated walking paths that have now been converted to flat gravel roads, allowing people like himself to traverse the terrain more easily.
Yaeesh has also collected several old computers to teach the youth with disabilities, including the visually impaired, basic computer skills. Some of these youth are now working from home and making a basic living transcribing documents and doing data entry work.
Through the DOP, Yaeesh hopes to lobby both the government, the private sector and the public to be more aware and accepting of the needs of disabled persons.
“My fate could befall anyone, and an able-bodied individual could be rendered helpless in an unfortunate instance. I want to make people understand the importance of integrating disabled people into the mainstream and be more accepting of their needs, which in turn will service even the elderly.”
Yaeesh says his challenge now is to fight for the rights of the disabled. “There isn’t enough legislation to create a conducive environment for disabled people in society. We need to change that. Mobility is one of the main issues. While some buildings may have access, disabled people find it a challenge to get there and we need to address that. Despite each person’s disability, they too yearn for a life that is as normal as possible. It’s up to society to accept them as they are and create an environment where they can be more independent, both economically and in their mobility.”