While Pranav Desai is well known for his professional accomplishments, his true legacy is his relentless advocacy and commitment to spreading awareness about the disabled community worldwide.
Pranav Desai began life in India, where he contracted polio at a young age. Despite his disability, he was determined to let nothing stand in the way of his success. His drive and ambition led to major achievements in the professional sphere. He was offered the chance to move to the United States for work, and along with his family, he set out to create a new home for himself.
The Need For Inclusivity
His experiences in the United States cemented Desai’s resolve to better the circumstances of persons with disabilities in India and abroad. This led to the founding of the Voice of SAP (Specially Abled People), a global organisation dedicated to empowering persons with disabilities.
Desai was also the impetus behind the Accessible India campaign. As a friend of the current Prime Minister, who he has known for many years, Desai was able to ask PM Modi to help him launch the movement – an investment that has paid off. He says, “Last November, when I met him, I gave him the whole proposal for the education, healthcare and finance. Then subsequently he put me to his Ministers.”
Since then, there has been marked progress in the attitude, legislation, and dialogue surrounding disability in India. He says, “First of all, the new law is there now. One of the seven promises I drafted for the current ruling party BJP, was to bring a better law in India. I was officially put in charge of the campaign in December 2013, and I came up with the very popular Vision 2020 with 12 goals. Out of the twelve, I could get seven into the manifesto, which is now the Government of India’s stated priority.”
The new Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016, encompasses 21 disabilities – a step up from the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, which only recognized 7. Though there is still a lot of work to be done with regard to legislation, it does seem like a step in the right direction.
Work With The Voice Of SAP
In today’s social media savvy world, Desai has found a way to harness the collective power of the internet. By using social networks as a tool, and embracing volunteerism, the Voice of SAP has been able to affect a great deal of social change.
Desai started the organisation because he saw that there was a requirement for an entity that helped connect and facilitate others in the field. He explains, “See, that’s why we created this entire Voice of SAP platform, because I saw that there are 8000 NGOs, fantastic NGOs doing a lot of things locally. But there was no umbrella organisation which was credible, powerful and connected. I’m connected with 100 CEOs and 100 Politicians and that’s the power that I’m giving to volunteers.”
But how does one go about building a truly global network? Pranav says, “What is my ways and means to connect with the people? It is through mobile phones. So we can push content and people can participate. Now that is volunteer engagement.” India’s tech-savvy youthful population is eager to be engaged. With the advent of Jio and other mobile and internet providers, there is an all-new audience to work with and educate.
The Voice of SAP app is a user-friendly creation that encourages action over passivity. Pranav elaborates, “Let’s talk about the ‘Pledge’ module, and ‘Building Accessibility’ module. Everybody can take pledges and resolutions. There’s no entry barrier. Download the app, log in to Google or Facebook, take a pledge as an individual or there are different templates for bureaucrats, elected leaders and so on. So, you can take a pledge, and you are part of the system. It’s the first thing everybody should do.”
He says, “In case I support a certain cause, I say “I will do this” or I will do that”, or a corporate would say “I will spread awareness in my company” or “I will hire somebody”. That’s what you can promote in your system through Pledge. The same Pledge module has a feature where you can send links to your friends encouraging them to take a pledge. They’ll get a link and boom! They can take a pledge. So our intention is that we need people to take a pledge. In a country of 120 crore people, if even 1.2 crore people (12 million people) take a pledge, social change will happen! But there’s work to be done.”
Choosing To Accept Social Responsibility
One of the key aspects of the movement is that volunteers are encouraged to take the lead. The Voice of SAP app allows users to take pictures of places of interest and give them ratings. Users can rank the spot and leave a note commenting on its accessibility. This will be useful for others who want to visit the spot at a later date. It may even convince the people who own or manage the place to make it more accessible. This is especially popular with social spots like restaurants, movie theatres, places of worship, etc.
Pranav says, “It’s about Individual Social Responsibility – everybody should be involved. And why Individual Social Responsibility? Because it’s your job, it’s my job, it’s everyone’s job, to at least take a picture if it is accessible. Even if it is not, take a picture; If you don’t want to take it up with the authorities, some other activist will do it. But you take a picture and do your job! This is why we created the mobile app.”
Building A More Accessible Planet
The same sense of social responsibility, in Desai’s opinion, should help create a more inclusive and accessible education system. He feels strongly that the current system is inadequate and excludes persons with disabilities.
He says, “Inaccessibility is the root cause of all the problems towards inclusive goals in our society. Because if we do not have access to a school, how can you educate a person? So, by design, we have created exclusivity in society. It’s not their abilities because you have not allowed them to go to school. So we need to address that part.”
Pranav explains further, “In education, e-learning is my big focus. Why do children need to go to school? Audiobooks are the answer. So, with a tablet, a child can study everything at home. Now that is the education revolution.”
Well, we at KYS couldn’t agree more! We love the idea of an educational revolution that results in a more inclusive and accessible India for all. And we can’t wait to see what changes Pranav Desai and his global team affect. Viva la revolution, indeed!
Takeaway – Habits That Help!
We asked Mr. Desai if he had any habits or traits that helped him along his path to success. He had something lovely to share, “One habit that I have is going into details. Also, I work very hard. If someone has to learn from me, then learn to work very hard.”
KnowYourStar.com (KYS) interviewed Pranav Desai as part of the India Inclusion Summit(IIS). IIS is a platform that brings awareness and drives the inclusion of specially-abled people in corporate organisations, schools, policymaking and NGOs. KYS is the official blogging partner for IIS, and backs the event wholeheartedly. Let’s build a more Inclusive India!
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