Dubai-based Shobhika Kalra may be wheelchair-bound, but she makes sure she stays ahead of the game.
The 28-year-old, who has helped build over 1,000 ramps across the UAE, is set to raise the bar and rope in as many people as she can to identify more places that need to be wheelchair-friendly.
“As part of this campaign, we’re launching an app Wings of Angelz, named after our social initiative, to build a database of places that urgently require ramps. So far, whatever we’ve done has been project-specific and based on one-off inputs. We are now taking the initiative to the next level.”
That is no empty talk, considering Kalra has come a long way. The Indian expat, who suffers from a rare degenerative muscular disorder called Friedreich Ataxia, said dealing with challenges has been a way of life for her.
A topper, she said she forced her parents, then in Abu Dhabi, to send her to boarding school when her grades once fell to second place. “I felt I was too pampered and convinced them I needed a hostel life. They enrolled me into a school in Hyderabad, India. But fate had other plans for me.”
Like all concerned mums, Kalra’s mother Dr Alka Kalra wanted her to get a medical check-up before she left. “She was concerned since I tended to lose my balance. At times, I couldn’t walk straight.”
We’re taking our initiative to the next level by launching an app to build a database of places that require ramps.”
- Shobhika Kalra | Wings of Angelz
The check-up changed her life forever. “I was 13 and the diagnosis of my disorder shattered me.”
She said she was compelled to drop out of regular school as the classrooms were on the second floor. But thankfully, she was allowed to pursue distance learning from another institute. “This helped me regain my confidence. I not only finished schooling, but also went on to college and earned myself a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and a Master’s degree in Psychology.”
It didn’t matter that her condition, which has no cure, was getting worse. “I had to go on the wheelchair when I was 18,” she said.
Her mission to make the UAE wheelchair-friendly was born of an embarrassing experience back in India, when she had to be physically carried as a 19-year-old to her seat in a movie hall that did not have ramps. “We realised the UAE also has only a few ramps. so my sister Ruchika and I decided to bring about a change.”
She said, “I started with the pavement outside Rashidiya Metro Station. Although the station had ramps, the pavement outside didn’t. I just visited the RTA and told them about it. The idea was so well received and the ramp was built within a week.”
Clearly, there has been no looking back since.