Launched in Gurgaon, India in 2013, Raahgiri Day closes down city streets to cars, bringing people of all ages out to walk, bike, make music, and socialize. Recently, India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, along with the Municipal Corporation Gurgaon (MCG) and Gurgaon Police, celebrated a special edition of Raahgiri Day in Gurgaon dedicated to people with disabilities. As many as 15,000 local residents, including about 2000 people with varying physical and mental disabilities came together to participate in an “Inclusive Raahgiri”—a day dedicated to celebrating diversity.
“Inclusive Raahgiri Day was all about demonstrating that those born handicapped, whether physical or mental, are no less than those of us blessed with the best of health”, said one of the participants, summing up the whole event.
These photos convey the celebration’s spirit of inclusivity and diversity:
Some of the events included basketball and dancing by students in wheelchairs, cycling and football by students who are blinds, as well as street plays, art therapy, golf, singing, and cultural performances by students with varying disabilities.
Children and adults with special needs shared the same space. More than 30 prominent NGOs that work with people with disabilities participated in the event.
To rally participants and organizers, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Haryana, along with Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot, Minister (SJ&E) and Shri Krishan Pal Gurjar, Minister of State (SJ&E), attended the event. While walking in the middle of the road, the Hon’ble CM of Haryana said, “Can anyone imagine a wheelchair bound teen having fun on a Gurgaon Road at 9 am, without any fears or apprehensions?”
Participant and accessibility consultant Ms. Anjlee Agarwal said “Raahgiri Day has given massive visibility to the journey of Inclusion and Accessibility for people with disabilities in Delhi and Gurgaon and it will add on with rippling effects in other cities”.
In addition to building communal awareness of the need to include people with disabilities, the ‘Inclusive Raahgiri Day’ emphasized the fact that people with disabilities have talent and passion that should be embraced. “Over the years as a special needs parent I have seen people’s indifferent looks and attitude. But today I saw a change, a hope; a new beginning….for inclusive India!” said the parent of one of the participants.
One of Raahgiri Day’s core objectives is “Inclusive Development,” along with road safety, clean air, and physical activity. Many urban areas in India are becoming very exclusive, as there is no formal mechanism facilitating interaction between various cross sections of society. This edition of Raahgiri Day was inclusive in its true sense. It attracted people from all walks of life—those who can afford condominiums, to those in nearby villages and slums, to children with all a variety of disabilities. Everyone shared the stage at Raahgiri Day.
Raahgiri Day is mobilizing and inspiring momentous change that hopefully will enable a new level of consciousness in the city and lead to a greater recognition of the needs of different people.
See more pictures from Mumbai’s Equal Streets events below, and on Facebook, and keep up with the events on Twitter.