Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu will present Suvarna Raj, an international para-athlete and social worker, with the NCPEDP – Mphasis Universal Design Award on August 14.
Recently, Prabhu was moved by the plight of Raj, who was forced to sleep on the floor of a train after she was denied a lower-berth on the Nagpur – Delhi Garib Rath Express. Even though she was allotted an upper berth in a coach reserved for the differently-abled, she requested for a lower-berth due to her condition. But due to unavailability of seats, she had to eventually sleep on the floor of the train.
Raj, who hails from Nagpur, suffers 90 per cent disability after polio struck her when she was 2. Surgeries eventually helped her move around using a wheelchair. Raj was honoured with the National Role Model Award by former president Pranab Mukherjee in 2014.
“Suvarna is a passionate supporter of improved accessibility for persons with disabilities and has done a lot of advocacy to make public buildings and places accessible for all. Efforts range from filing of RTIs and cases in the offices of the Central and State Disability Commissioners. As an Access Auditor for the Accessible India Campaign, she has audited 139 buildings across the country on their accessibility and her report now awaits implementation,” said Javed Abidi, the brain behind the award.
Some of the other recipients of the award include Aqil Chinoy, vice-chairman of Yuva Association of the Deaf, Dr Homiyar Mobedji, a disability expert, Vivek Mehta, founder of DeafEasy, Hemang Mistry, an architect and designer, P Narahari, District Magistrate of Indore and Siddhant Chetan Shah, founder of Access For All.