Kalgi Rawal - Blind Motivational Speaker Inspires Thousands
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By Sanjana Yadav and Mary Olson
Ahmedabad, India. February 07, 2020. When others give up hope in life due to physical challenges and accessibility issues, this 23-year-old teenager funded a Foundation in her name and is a huge source of inspiration to many. She has inspired tens of thousands of lives at this young age.
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Meet Kalgi Rawal, the determined multi-talented young girl who never gives up despite being blind by birth. She is the youngest blind motivator in India, the youngest to pass grade 10 exams in the State of Gujarat, India by self-study at home. She not only secured a 76% mark in English medium, her high score is highest for any blind person of her age in Gujarat.
Kalgi Rawal is a tireless activist pushing the Central and State government of India to make websites accessible for blind. She has her own YouTube channel and operates her own Twitter and Facebook accounts.
In speaking with Sanjana Yadav from Teenager Startups about her challenges when passing Secondary School Certificate (Grade 10) Kalgi said “I didn’t find reading Braille, comfortable and there weren’t proper audio texts out there.”
She further added, “Educators create syllabuses for all students studying in every school. We ask ourselves, why aren’t the ones with special requirements provided with proper study material, primarily catering to their needs? Many teachers are reluctant to teach them, which causes a lack of tuition teachers as well as much-needed professional guidance. They find the task highly patience-driven and time-consuming. The education system represents a stereotypical belief that disabled students are unwilling or incapable of studying”.
A prominent tabloid in Gujarat State carried front-page story with her these concerns “Who will teach this girl?”
Finding a writer for her examination was a significant issue that Kalgi faced during her school board exams. The previous criteria only allowed writers who were of 9th and lower grade with a percentage below 60%. She was in Grade 10 and a bright student, so someone with below 60% average and who studied only till grade 9 to be her writer was not acceptable to Kalgi. “I hope you know where the loopholes lie. A student with this low percentage cannot do justice with the instructions given to them, especially when they need to act calmly.” Said Kalgi.
Finding an unfair disadvantage for the whole community, Kalgi decided to raise this issue and bring it into the limelight as she considered it to be her social duty. Her efforts proved to be beneficial for everyone, and the criteria were finally removed by the State of Gujarat.
Kalgi poses critical questions not only to the government but all of us. Disability was not her choice, but not having equal access or equality opportunity means an unfair world to her, and those who already have been at a disadvantage since birth.
Kalgi is the only child of her parents, Mr. Tikendra Rawal and Mrs. Meena Rawal and her parents are her biggest supporters. Right through her childhood, they encouraged Kalgi to dream and make a difference in this world.
Kalgi today, at this very young age, has achieved many milestones. When she was 13, she was in a two-hour radio talk show, and this was when everyone realized the power of her clarity. Her English is fabulous. Her speeches are very motivational. She has been featured in TV Shows, newspapers and is a regular guest at social events. Kalgi also completed a course and professional training as a radio jockey and anchoring from Ahmedabad.
The Accessible India Campaign or the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan is a project started by the Government of India. Its primary aim is to serve the specially-abled community of the State of Gujarat. Kalgi became the Social Ambassador for the campaign in 2017.
“Kalgi Foundation” gives “Divyang Ratna Awards” to 30-disabled people who have been an inspiration to society. The State of Gujarat has partnered with Kalgi Foundation for these awards which, are now presented every year.
In December 2007, Kalgi worked as a radio jockey with a private radio station. In 2011, she anchored the "Save a Girl Child and Educate Her" program at Diu. Her achievements have been remarkable, and her social contribution has helped millions.
Kalgi Rawal is one of those remarkable individuals who broke through the sight-impaired world, driven by the aspiration to contribute towards a better society, primarily focusing on the disabled. Her work through the Kalgi Foundation focuses on issues faced by the minority sections of society that, with her leadership, is getting the attention of government authorities and corporate businesses.
Kalgi’s foundation was set up by Kalgi Rawal when she was merely 17 years of age. The foundation tries to bring into light the major concerns of the people as well as several vices that Indian society still faces in the 21st century.
When viewed globally, some ‘social taboos' are often treated as that dark room in the house that’s locked from the outside, and no one is ever allowed to open. And no questions to be asked, it’s a sign of disrespect. This tabooed thinking has made these vices are rooted in our society, not just as a social aspect but eventually, with time, becomes psychologically imbibed and imprinted into the culture.
Kalgi also talks about these issues as a motivational speaker. She has addressed almost 5000 people about such topics. She also talks about Child Marriage, Female Foeticide, female education, and motivates the parents of physically disabled, so that they can benefit from her guidance.
The Canadian company, Cogdina Inc.’s CEO, Roshan Shah, who is also a Board Member of Teenager Startups, recently hired Kalgi to do the WCAG AA level Compliance testing for a multi-billion dollar global company, specifically, the U.S. headquarters website.
She evaluated the ADA non-compliant website both in Android and using JAWS reader. Roshan stated, “Kalgi is fantastic. We hired her for Website Accessibility Testing. We got her report back and were pleasantly surprised that she was very thorough. She brought to our attention at least two issues that our parsers, screen readers, and manual checks couldn’t catch. We have asked Kalgi to see if she can build on her these capabilities and form a start-up for corporations around the world to use her company for website accessibility testing. Projects like this are best tested by real disabled people. Indeed, the results raised the level of our value to the company, and we were pleased to benefit by Kalgi’s analysis.
The lyrics of the famous hymn, "The God works in mysterious ways," tells us that if God deprives you of any physical ability, he blesses you with extraordinary potential to compensate for it. All you have to do is dig deeper and stay motivated.” Don't you think so in Kalki's case?
This story is contributed by Sanjana Yadav with editorial inputs from Mary Olson and Roshan Shah. Sanjana is from Gurgaon, Haryana, India and is pursuing her BA(Hons) in Literature.
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