Maninder "Meenu" Sodhi (born 1951) has channeled the anguish and the wisdom that comes from being the mother of a child with disability to reach out and help others like herself. Umang, which she set up in 1998, has been providing support services to these children and their parents. Umang has now started a school for disabled children, aimed at integration into the activities of a mainstream school. For Meenu, every day is an opportunity to make a change that will help a person with disabilities-whether it is building a ramp at the local provisions store, or sensitizing railway officials.
Meenu was shattered when her bright and vivacious son was diagnosed with an incurable spinal cerebral degenerative disorder, which affected his mobility, and then his speech. The empathy and support she received from the Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (Aadi) team, whom she had contacted for home management sessions with her son, helped her accept that the best course for him would be therapy and alternative education. In 1998, Aadi asked to start services for people with disabilities in East Delhi, which had no such facility. "You think your pain is the biggest, then you look around and see others with bigger pain than yours; you forget your pain and start helping others," says Meenu. She began by establishing in 1998 a parental group called Uday, which is now known as Umang, a registered body that caters to the varied needs of people with disability in East Delhi. In November 1999, Umang also started a school for children with disabilities within the premises of the DAV Public School, nursery wing, Dayanand Vihar. In collaboration with the school authorities, the Umang's students are now integrated in various school activities. For Meenu, sensitizing means highlighting the insensitivity that people with disabilities and their caregivers face in society. She has made a difference-convincing temple and gurudwara (place of worship for the Sikhs) authorities about the need to provide facilities for people with disabilities, and shopping centers and the local provisions store to build a ramp. Meenu's world has grown: it is a world in which there are many people like her son, and she wants to do justice by them all.