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All Disability Education Innovation Schools Startups

Speech impairment doesn’t mean they’ve nothing to say!

Millions of children in India suffer from speech impairment, resulting from various conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome etc. But there are only a handful of speech therapists in India that can help these children (unlike say USA). A bunch of Indian geeks are finally using technology to address the problem and it’s beautiful to see the impact – how when you give the tools to communicate to these children, they can express a lot!

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All Disability Initiative Inspiring Sports

Meet the amazing blind footballers of India

 

 

 

 

[aesop_content color=”#ffffff” background=”#ffffff” component_width=”700px” columns=”1″ position=”left” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]Not only does India have a blind football team, it actually ranks better (global rank) than India’s regular football team*! 🙂 This is their story! And it’s amazing! Some time last year (2016), I stumbled upon the website of Indian Blind Football Federation (IBFF) and was amazed to discover that blind people played football and all that! This was such a cool discovery! I immediately sensed a story that could be told and wrote to Sunil right away. He was the Sporting Director at IBFF. He informed me that the first international blind football tournament in India, had just concluded and if only he had known me earlier, I could have shot that and made some film! 🙁 But well, what was done was done! To my delight, Sunil said he was in the process of organizing the next tournament. It would take place in the next few months and I could probably shoot that. And then, finally that tournament happened. Last month. I travelled to Kochi to be there on the last two days of the tournament and made this film.

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Because of my friendship with Divyanshu (he is blind too) when I made a film about his Himalayan cycling adventure last year, I have a relatively better understanding of how most blind folks expect the sighted world to act (compared to someone who has never properly spent time with a blind person). From whatever little I understand, most blind people never feel bad about their disability (to see) – it’s just a part of who they are. Most of their struggles are not because of their disability – it’s usually because the world in which they live is simply poorly designed to take care of their needs.

Most blind people never feel bad about their disability (to see) – it’s just a part of who they are.

I carried this attitude and understanding during my interaction with all the players. And I hope that shows in the film. This film is not so much about blindness. It is more about a new kind of sport in which India really has a chance to do something big at international level.

Dehradun team members taking a break. They would play against Kerala in the final match in the evening.

I had kind of pre-decided that I would focus on two protagonists – one from each of the two teams that reach the final, and make this film like a typical sports film where both sides want to win. And use that framework to bring out the story of how this sport is growing in India; who is behind it.

Dehradun team gearing up for the final match with Kerala.
Team Dehradun
Team Kerala
Tushar, a player from Mumbai (partially sighted), took this picture. You can see a blurry me (blue tshirt) behind the players. The final match is about to begin.

I know it’s not a three minute story. It’s an eight minute story. 🙂 But I hope after you have seen it, you do agree that there is nothing that need not be told. I already skipped the whole part where Pankaj, Anish and Falhan explained to me how they got into football. Everything that’s in the final film, I believe should be there.

I congratulate Dehradun on the win and hope that Sunil and IBFF are able to secure consistent funding / sponsorship for the next few years so that they can improve the quality of the game and hopefully get team India to make our country famous internationally. Share this story, if you like it. More the number of people who know and care about this sport, the better!

*Indian Blind Football world ranking is 25 (source) while the regular football ranking is around 100.

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All Disability Initiative Social Travel

How do you make a wheelchair tourist in India happy?

Earlier this month (Apr 2017), Umoja, a travel portal focused on ‘accessible’ travel, organized a week long event in Goa where I got to meet few wheelchair tourists who had found a great reason to be happy about being in Goa. You might think everyone is generally happy about being in Goa anyway, but watch the story first! 🙂 You will know what I am talking about!

Talking about this film, I would have loved to shoot how these guys went about setting up the special ramp but unfortunately I came to know about this event only after all that had already been done! 🙁

By the way, there is an interesting (and inspiring) article on Yourstory, on one of the protagonists of my story . If you liked the 3MS, you can read more about her. As usual, if you are doing something interesting yourself that I can come shoot and tell your story, or if you want to sponsor one of my stories, do reach out to me: amrit@3minutestories.com

In May first week, I am flying to Kochi to capture the story of the blind football players of India! Will keep you guys posted!

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All Disability Initiative Inspiring NGO Organization Travel

Stunning aerial shots from Ladakh and a super powerful cycling story

You need a certain level of fitness to cycle from Manali to Khardungla, a distance exceeding 500 Kms over one of the highest altitude roads in the world, but every year, hundreds of cyclists do it anyway. When Divyanhsu wanted to try this though, everyone told him it was impossible. This story tells you why.

It also shows what cycling in the Himalayas is all about and why it’s worth it, especially for someone like Divyanshu.

SPOILER ALERT: Read on further only AFTER you have seen the 3MinuteStory.

[highlight]If you want to use the video in you site(s), please do follow the Video Credit Policy.[/highlight]

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Your phone sounds like a Mickey Mouse.

I told Divyanshu within the first 15 minutes of meeting him in person in Manali. Below is a short audio clip of how his phone sounds like.

‘This Mickey Mouse keeps me independent’, he smiled and explained. It made sense for him to listen to the audio narration of his iphone at as high a speed as possible, to be most efficient in using it (yes, that’s how he uses his phone, some app narrates everything that’s on screen).

Divyanshu at Tso Kar, Ladakh, 2016. Photograph by Amrit Vatsa.
Divyanshu at Tso Kar, Ladakh, 2016. Photograph by Amrit Vatsa.

 

Divyanshu lost his eyesight from Glaucoma when he was nineteen (he is in his forties now). After going through a short low period, he jumped back to life and took things in his stride. He wanted to learn computers. No one would teach him computers. So he learnt it on his own, thanks to internet. He worked in the IT sector for six years and then shifted to clinical psychology and cognitive neuroscience (in the year 2000). At present, he runs a company called Yellow Brick Road that offers corporate training in behavioral facilitation. He also runs a not for profit called Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF).

Those eight days in the hills and how I went about shooting it all

I traveled with the team throughout the journey. ABBF was kind enough to take care of my return flight from Goa (where I live). They also took care of the entire stretch of travel and accommodation. Other than Divyanshu and Gagan, the team included Herman – Divyanshu’s friend from Mumbai, Tanya – who works for ABBF and the youngest of all – Rahul – our local guide (from Manali) who drove the support vehicle (his 4-Wheel Scorpio Getaway) like a boss.

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The team. Herman, Tanya, Gagan, myself, Divyanshu and Rahul.

 

Those of us not cycling, travelled mostly in the support vehicle. At times, I would ask Rahul to cross the cyclists and stop the vehicle some distance ahead where I would then wait for them to approach the frame as I filmed (mostly handheld) . At other times, I would stand on the Scorpios’ rear luggage holder while Rahul kept driving his SUV, at slow speeds, just ahead of the cyclists, and I would film tracking shots. On several days, I also ran on the road (though only for few minutes at a time), that being the only way to get close-up moving shots as they cycled. The quadcopter (my 3rd one; purchased just a day before the trip started) was flown for the aerial shots obviously, whenever the landscape called for it (and the batteries had juice in them). I was clear I did not want to overdo the aerial bit and definitely wanted to avoid the cliched time-lapse and hyper-lapse and super slow-motion shots. Vimeo and internet is full of them already and lately they have become the biggest excuse for not telling what matters most – a good genuine story (IMHO). Enough ‘music videos’ already!

I did not want the video to be about my cinematographic abilities and over-exploit the beauty of the landscape. I wanted the video to tell the story of Divyanshu’s journey. And why it’s important.

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I wait for the cyclists to arrive. Photography by Tanya or Herman.
I wait for the cyclists to arrive. Photograph by Tanya or Herman.

When I finally put together the first cut, I had a one hour movie (yet to work on the longer version). There is so much that this short story doesn’t show. In the opening shot of this 3MinuteStory, you see Rahul trying to fix the loosened crank (which by the way never got properly fixed till the end; these guys managed to cycle nevertheless). Dealing with a loose crank was only one of the struggles. One day, the chain broke. The same day they realized that the backup cycle was impossible to ride because the shafts were way out of sync. On another day, Divyanshu felt feverish (but thankfully recovered soon). On yet another day, Gagan suffered from a mild high altitude sickness and the team had to help him with Oxygen. There were times when I felt dizzy too. But nothing devastating enough to stop the ride, ever happened. We all held up fine one way or other and at the end of eight days, the expedition was successfully over.

The bottom-line

From that first Micky Mouse conversation to the many more that I had with Divyanshu (some on record, many off the record), I bonded really well with him. During the course of the expedition, it was obvious to me that this story was not about ‘blindness’ at all. That is not to say that any of us ever forgot that Divyanshu was blind. We did not. But that’s similar to how the rest of them never forgot that I had beard and held camera in my hands for most part. Or that we all never forgot that Tanya was a woman. And so on. We all were different people and that was that. There was nothing more to it. And that’s pretty much the bottom-line. When able bodied people like me hang out and do things together with folks with a disability like Divyanshu, we are able to move over the stereotypical notions that we have and this makes life so much better because we become more accepting. We see each other as different individuals (with different abilities and disabilities) but that never becomes the basis to draw conclusions about what one can and cannot do.

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Divyanshu and I contemplate about life and other such things. Sarchu, Ladakh, 2016. Photograph by Tanya.

Now that Divyanshu has shown that tandem cycling on the Himalayas is pretty much doable for a blind person, his not for profit Adventures Beyond Barriers Foundation (ABBF) plans to organize expeditions for more cyclists every year. ABBF already organizes marathons for blind (a sighted runner holds hands of a visually impaired person and they run together). And I am sure, Divyanshu and team will keep coming up with more ways to bring together the two communities. The world needs this.

If you want to use the video in you site(s), please do follow the Video Credit Policy.