“The distance between ambition and accomplishment is covered not by an able body but by a willing soul,” believe
the founders of Wills on Wheels Foundation (W.O.W), a non-profit organization run and enabled by people on wheels for people on wheels. Headquartered in Mumbai, India, it is founded by three pairs of siblings, amongst whom three are on wheelchair: Priti and Prasad Shetty; Maitri and Rahul Shah; Sneha and Santosh Shriyan. They share with Yasmeen Maqbool their vision for every person with physical disability to lead a dignified and productive life
“We aim to engage, educate and empower physically disabled in our society and thus, on 3rd December 2012, World Disability Day we initiated the foundation. Moreover, they believe, “Strength does not come from physical capacity; it comes from an indomitable will.” The initiative aims to form a vibrant online community for people on wheels to provide: Education and employment opportunities, counseling for families; to disburse information on laws, rights and facilities for people on wheels and to create awareness and sensitize the masses on physical disability.
The youngest member of the founding team, Maitri, 21, with Congenital Muscular Dystrophy and wheelchair bound since her childhood, was first to draw inspiration to start the foundation from Satyameva Jayate (an Indian television talk show). She wanted W.O.W to be a unique organisation driven by the people on wheels for the people on wheels. When asked what inspired her, Maitri explains, “I had to go through a lot of inconvenience during my engineering entrance examinations. From wheelchair inaccessibility at the exam hall and unavailability of scribe that fits the prescribed requirements, to not securing a seat even after scoring the necessary marks to finally get admission in my desired college. Fast forward, office environment, more than often I have to go a step further than my colleagues to prove my abilities in spite of having the prerequisite educational qualifications, at various levels. People often make vague assumptions about the credibility of a differently abled before even knowing their capacity and capabilities. This can be a major hurdle in the way of providing equal opportunities to the differently-abled. That’s when my brother, Rahul Shah and I had a conversation about using our experience to help others who may face a similar situation in the future. Thus, Wills on Wheels was born!”
Assisting Maitri with equal zeal and enthusiasm, Priti is one of the founders of W.O.W. Suffering from a muscle
degenerative disability called Spinal Cord Muscular Atrophy (SMA) type III by birth Priti’s vision is to make every person on wheel self-reliant. “It was easy for us, as birds of the same feathers flock together. Our core members are all wheelchair bound, with a similar kind of genetic disorder. So to understand and explore the mission and vision of our foundation became easy.”
When Maitri and Rahul approached her for her support to initiate an NGO to empower people on wheels, Priti was confident she can be of assistance in helping build their confidence so that they may lead a dignified and productive life. She has a younger brother, Prasad Shetty, also wheelchair bound by birth, is a CFP by profession today, running his own financial firm and a W.O.W. co-founder. “Moreover,” says Priti, “anyone who wishes to be a part of this vision are welcome to join us, as we always need volunteers to help us work efficiently and make it an inclusive society. Four years on, we are five people on wheelchair and almost 20-25 volunteers.”
Some of the services that the foundation provides include:
• Travel Assistance
• Work From Home
Work from home
If you are bored sitting at home but unable to find the right jobs and want to really have a will to do something for yourself, then W.O.W assists differently abled people in finding the jobs aligned to their skillsets, which can be performed from home.
Travelling made easy for people on wheels
W.O.W in association with Samartha Travels provides rent-a-car service for the differently abled people.
You can now vent out your problems to a friend cum counselor from W.O.W. Moreover, they undertake awareness programmess in and around their vicinity; stage art exhibitions as well as take wheelchair bound friends for an outing. Says Priti, “I believe that, it is just a matter of showing my fellow friends the path towards an independent life. Rest leave it on their wills on wheels to roll.”
In a nutshell Maitri alongwith her team at the foundation envision every person with physical disability to lead a dignified and productive life. “We have an online portal and a Facebook page Wills on Wheels that gives information about the various topics related to disability. We share inspiring stories on a regular basis and send a monthly newsletter to our subscribers. We have executed a few awareness programmes at public places and have been running the Mumbai Marathon for our cause,” says Maitri.
They recently arranged an art exhibition, ‘Art Mela’ for the differently abled to display their talents and even put it up for sale. Maitri believes that technology can change lives and feels ensured that, “by using tech tools we could reach our goals of a more disabled friendly, inclusive society.”