International Day of Persons with Disabilities: 10 inspiring Indian women with disabilities


While traveling by a bus, an airplane or a metro, you do come across one or two women with disabilities. What’s the first thing you notice? People gawking at them with no shame. Without a doubt, women with disabilities have to face a lot. All the more reason to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is all about raising awareness and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities around the world. The best way to do this is by getting to know about the achievements of Indian women with disabilities.

As people around the world celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, Health Shots has put together a list of 10 inspiring Indian women with disabilities.

People with disability deserve equal treatment. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

1. Arunima Sinha

Today, she is popular as the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest, but back in 2011, when she was just 24, she was thrown from a moving train by some goons for refusing to hand over the gold chain that she was wearing. The train attack resulted in injuries that led to her leg being amputated. On May 21, 2013, she reached the summit of Everest and became the first female amputee to scale the mountain. Now, the author of “Born Again on the Mountain: A Story of Losing Everything and Finding it Back” runs a non-profit school for underprivileged handicapped children. Recognising her efforts, she was awarded Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, in 2015.

2. Dr Malvika Iyer

She is a disability rights activist, who received the Nari Shakti Puraskar, which is the highest civilian honour for women from the President of India. She has been inspiring people through her motivational talks. She is also a corporate trainer and a global shaper at the global shapers community. The list of her achievements is just piling up, but when she was 13, things didn’t look so bright. Though she survived a bomb blast in India back then, she lost both her hands and both her legs were damaged. She was bed ridden for two years, still she topped her 10th grade and scored 97 per cent with just three months of preparations. The St. Stephen’s College, Delhi alumnus went on to complete her M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Social Work at the Madras School of Social Work.

3. Preethi Srinivasan

When she was just 17, she led the Tamil Nadu women’s cricket team into the national championships. Apart from excelling in cricket, she is also a state-level gold winner in swimming. She became a quadriplegic after an accident, but she didn’t let that come in her way of success. Her own horrific experience inspired her to create SoulFree, which is a foundation that aims to help Indian youth with disability and mentors them on rehabilitation techniques. Five years ago, she received the Kalpana Chawla Award for Courage and Daring Enterprise.

4. Malathi Krishnamurthy Holla

She is a Bengaluru-based sportswoman, who is an internationally recognized para-athlete. In 1988, Holla, whose body was ravaged by polio when she was a child, represented India for the first time in Paralympics at Seoul. The recipient of Padma Shri and Arjuna Awards is working as a manager at a bank, and also runs Mathru Foundation, where her focus is mainly on children suffering from polio whose parents cannot afford medical care.

5. Rajalakshmi S.J

She shot to fame after representing India at the Miss Wheelchair World pageant 2017 in Poland. The wheelchair-bound orthodontist also gives motivational talks, regularly gives free-of-cost dental check-ups and works for the employment and education rights of the disabled.

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is all about raising awareness and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Suvarna Raj

She is an international para-athlete, and has helped in fighting for better accessibility for people with disabilities. She is working in the Accessible India Campaign with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, and in para-sports, she is trying hard to ensure that disabled women sports athletes are not marginalised.

7. Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi, who lost her sight as a teenager, is a disabled woman comedian and an activist who works on disability rights and gender justice. Also the founder of non-profit Rising Flame , she is a writer, trainer and artist. A few years ago she spoke about her experience of depression, which must have inspired others to open up about it too.

8. Vaishali Salavkar

In 2018, she became the first Indian blind chess player to participate in the World Chess Olympiad, and has been playing the board game since she was in her 20s. She is an eight-time national champion, so clearly winning doesn’t always need eyes.

9. Manasi Joshi

Another sports star, Joshi won the bronze medal in women’s singles SL3 Category at the 2018 Thailand Para-Badminton International. Joshi, who was required to have her leg amputated after a motorcycle accident, was recently honoured with Arjuna Award 2022.

10. Ira Singhal

Singhal, who suffers from Scoliosis, was the UPSC topper in 2014-15. She was also the first disabled woman to top the civil service exam in the General category. Even though she cannot move her arms, she was determined to win the most competitive exam in India.


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