Is Digital India truly inclusive?

By Shruti Pushkarna

Shruti PushkarnaA few days before India assumed the G20 Presidency on December 1, 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the G20 leaders in Bali about the transformative power of digital architecture, applauding India’s efforts in the recent years. In July 2015, the flagship programme of the Modi-led government, Digital India, was launched with a view to digitally empower the society and knowledge economy.

The initiative was deemed promising by different groups for varied reasons. It was seen as a step towards bridging the socio-economic gaps by providing access to services, digitally. Education could reach a wider audience tucked in far-out nooks of the country. Small business owners could tap into a new market share, thanks to digital payment gateways.

Persons with disabilities, especially those with vision impairment, also saw a huge opportunity of inclusion and integration into the mainstream of things. With innovation in technology, acquiring a decently priced smartphone is no longer difficult or out of bounds. Increased internet penetration and the special push of the government to go digital, has opened up services to millions of blind citizens.

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Five ways to make media offerings accessible

By Shruti Pushkarna

They say charity begins at home. Well, so does inclusion. We all love to judge others, call out their mistakes, conveniently forgetting our own follies. Aren’t we all guilty of excluding people who don’t talk, walk or look like us?

Most of us don’t even realise how and when we omit vulnerable communities from everyday conversations, business, politics, entertainment et cetera.

Persons with disabilities struggle to navigate not only in a physically inaccessible environment, but also among people unconsciously wired to discriminate and dismiss.

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Outside India, people see disabled as humans first

By Shruti Pushkarna

Shruti PushkarnaI was fifteen, when I first traveled outside the country, across the Pacific. The trip was an eye-opener, educative and liberating. It exposed me to different people, culture, food, places and more. Something that shaped me in different ways in the following years.

To me travel means independence. I wonder what it means to a person with disability who is written off as ‘dependent’. Do disabled people like to travel? Do they have the freedom to travel given the inaccessible (physical) environment and limiting societal perceptions?

To get a sense of their desires, challenges, and the scope of travel in and outside India, I spoke with Neha Arora, the Founder of Planet Abled. An organisation that makes travel accessible and inclusive for persons with all types of disabilities and the elderly. Neha worked with companies like HCL, Nokia and Adobe before launching Planet Abled.

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Disability Inclusion: Should the media practise and propagate accessibility?

By Shruti Pushkarna

May 19, 2022 marks the eleventh edition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). Founders, Joe Devon and Jennison Asuncion teamed up in 2012 to initiate the famous GAAD movement following a blogpost (by Joe) and a thread on Twitter (spotted by Jennison).

The objective is to raise awareness and know-how on how to make the digital environment (products and services) accessible for one billion people across the world, who live with some form of disability.

Through various events, talks and hackathons, everyone gets talking, thinking and learning about digital inclusion and access. India has been an active participant in the movement. But other than the usual suspects, including disability advocates, potential beneficiaries of accessible ecosystems, accessibility testers and consultants, most of us don’t really care about this annual observance.

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A fervent spokesperson first, disabled after: Has the media finally got it right?

Shruti PushkarnaBy Shruti Pushkarna


The last two weeks of September saw a fair bit of media coverage from the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Political gripes and handling of predominant world crises made headlines across countries.


News around India and Pakistan tends to invoke a gamut of reactions and a sea of emotions. Especially when it comes to the regional conflict surrounding Kashmir. Otherwise uninterested in the usual furor, a Pakistani diplomat’s address caught my attention.


The image of a woman fiercely defending her nation, reading from a Braille script at a global forum, challenged several stereotypes in one go. Read more

Shruti Pushkarna: Half a decade of lessons in accepting diversity

Shruti PushkarnaIt’s been five years since I quit the media to work in the non-profit sector. Whenever I tell people that I work with the disabled community, I get typecast into this ‘saintly selfless soul’, who chose to sacrifice her economic aspirations for the larger good. My vivid imagination introduces music from Ramanand Sagar’s ‘Ramayan’ in the background.


But there’s nothing pious or heroic about my choice of career. It’s a job, albeit with a purpose and a passion for equality. It’s because I work with a minority (not sure if you can call 15% of the global population that), public reactions are riddled with the ‘wow’ element.


Society perceives the disabled as ‘becharas’, something that domain experts and activists have been advocating against. The bechara syndrome arises from our tendency to accentuate the limitation. And what’s physically obvious and ‘different’, is easy to isolate. Often disabled people internalise a feeling of helplessness, which emanates from this societal perception. Many even believe they are paying for the sins of a past life, as part of a divine plan.

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Can the historic Paralympic medal tally alter our perception of disability?

By Shruti Pushkarna


Before I delve into this piece, I’d like to congratulate Team MxM on their tenth anniversary. Feels like it was eons ago, when I joined the team in August 2011. As my Editor handed me varied assignments, I saw myself mature and learn. Even today, I credit a great deal to MxM for helping me refine my writing style and develop a deeper understanding of issues. I continue my association with the team, with this fortnightly column on Media and Disability, with the belief that awareness can help create an empathetic society.


As a young girl, 10 or 12 years of age, I was quite interested in pursuing a sport. Badminton, specifically. But it wasn’t easy to nurture my passion.


At school, teachers only seemed to care about the academic scorecard of every student. If you so much asked to be excused for a sporting event, you were deemed lazy and unintelligent. There was no talk around the importance of sports in shaping one’s personality, team spirit and confidence. Read more

Disability Inclusion: How far are we from a Sugamya and Saksham Bharat?

By Shruti Pushkarna

In his first term, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was applauded for path-breaking campaigns like Swachh Bharat, Jan Dhan Yojana, Sugamya Bharat, Ujjwala Yojana and so on. The promise of ‘inclusion’ for larger sections of the Indian population gave the country hope for a better tomorrow, or ‘Acchhe Din’.


Having been sidelined and neglected for decades, the disabled community felt vindicated with the announcement of the Accessible India movement in 2015. Finally, the lack of ‘access’ was acknowledged at a national level. In a move to dignify their existence, PM Modi also coined a new term, ‘divyangjan’ or divine being replacing the demeaning usage of ‘viklang’ or handicapped. Read more

‘Coupling’ with Covid: One hell of a roller coaster ride

By Shruti Pushkarna

Shruti PushkarnaAs promised, here is a personal account of my three months’ absence, when I couldn’t put pen to paper and furnish my otherwise extremely regular fortnightly column. If you are wondering what’s this got to do with the theme of disability, the answer is probably nothing. Except maybe it articulates a similar sense of helplessness and frustration, experienced by the disabled folk on varied levels 24×7. A first for me, it was truly novel and intense.

The start of a new financial year, April 2021 saw a sudden explosion of Covid cases in the country. Delhi and NCR were badly hit. As I took my marital vows (in a close family setting), Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced a curfew with immediate effect. En route to my new abode, we were stopped and questioned by cops for disregarding the latest notification. Caught off-guard, we requested the trail of cars be allowed to pass the barricade.


Oblivious to the alarming crisis building outside, we chuckled and chatted, celebrating our conjugal beginnings. But in two days, things changed drastically. One after the other, the whole family tested positive for Covid-19. With each phone call, the tally went up, everyone reporting cases from their circle of family and friends. Read more