Ramp by ramp, this woman is go­ing places

Wheel­chair-bound Kalra who has helped build over 1,000 ramps in UAE, now wants to do more

Gulf News - - Front Page - BY SHARMILA DHAL Chief Re­porter

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 pro­ject­spe­cific 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.

Turn­ing point

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.”

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

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 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.

Pho­tos: Ar­shad Ali/Gulf News

Shob­hika Kalra helped build a ramp on this pave­ment out­side Al Rashidiya Metro Sta­tion, among other lo­ca­tions in the UAE.

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