December 3, 2023, marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. On this day, the global community pauses to reflect on the rights, achievements, and challenges faced by persons with disabilities (paraplegics). This day serves as a powerful reminder of the need for inclusivity, accessibility, and understanding in all aspects of life. It encourages societies worldwide to promote equal opportunities, eradicate discrimination, and create empowering environments.
It’s been 7 years since the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, was passed, yet we see these people being treated differently. This significant day aims to raise awareness about the diverse abilities and contributions of people with disabilities while advocating for a world where everyone, regardless of their abilities, can live with dignity, equal opportunities, and access to all aspects of society.
Meet Ankita Sharma
Today, we take you through the truly empowering journey of Ankita – The Girl On Wheels. She holds the coveted titles of being India’s first wheelchair user Influencer and Miss India Wheelchair 2017-18 (Runner up). “Life is tough but so am I”, says Ankita Sharma. Her world had turned upside down following some tragic events but her spirit was undaunted. Wearing her scars as her crown, she moved with her chin up and a firm motive of spreading awareness about how wheelchair-bound people are suffering socially.
Presented with the ‘Woman of the Future Award’, Ankita dreams of working for the welfare of people like her. She also gave a very motivational speech as a TEDx speaker at JP Global School, willing to reshape society’s perception of individuals with disabilities. She shared her journey of resilience and hope, offering a powerful perspective on life’s challenges.
Ankita acquired her disability at the age of 15, owing to an accident at a cousin’s wedding she was attending. Multiple injuries, fractures, surgeries, and medical negligence later, Ankita found her legs in a wheelchair that she’s been using for more than a decade. Hailing from the Pink City, Jaipur, she has visited numerous public places in Pink City including umpteen cafes. Thanks to her weekly visits, cafes have now started constructing ramps.
The 4th of July this year marked 14 years for Ankita as a ‘person with disability’ (paraplegic). “The worst thing about a disability is that people see it before they see you. But you are not obligated to do everything a healthy person does. You are not obligated to be an inspiration. You are not obligated to hide your illness in order to make other people comfortable,” she expressed.
You are allowed to have bad days. You are allowed to stay in bed if you can’t get up to do anything. There is no need to apologise for something that is out of your control. Ankita further states that she’s proud of herself, “I went through every type of pain, family issues, trust issues, heartbreak, insecurities, depression, etc. I went through it all alone, but never gave up. If you want to be happy for the rest of your life, learn to love yourself ❤️“
She was felicitated at the Empowering Women Awards 2022 by Raveena Tandon.
The Social Nation team spoke to Ankita to learn more about her journey and what she wishes to achieve by being an influencer.
How did you come out of your shell and gather the confidence to become India’s first wheelchair user influencer?
Overcoming my initial hesitation after becoming paraplegic involved a gradual process driven by my deep love for life. It took time to build the confidence to step out on my own terms. Despite the challenges, my love for fashion became a powerful motivator. I started sharing my lifestyle and fashion choices, gradually breaking out of my shell.
The journey wasn’t just about fashion and lifestyle; it led me to discover a sense of self-love and happiness. With each post, I aimed to inspire others, aspiring to break barriers and encourage joy and self-acceptance.
As a TEDx speaker, how do you hope your content inspires and impacts others, especially those facing similar challenges?
I’m aware that many individuals facing circumstances similar to mine possess incredible talents and aspirations. However, due to a lack of awareness, societal stigmas surrounding disabilities, and various barriers, they might hesitate to pursue their dreams. Through my content, I aim to inspire those individuals, conveying the message that there’s nothing they can’t achieve.
Regardless of societal opinions, everyone has the right to live, love, and laugh. If my journey encourages even one person to take a step towards their dreams, despite the challenges, then I consider myself successful—whether it’s through being a TEDx speaker or an influencer.
The Influencer Life – For The Better Good
Ankita is the most beautiful example of what resilience and willpower can achieve. After securing the runner-up position at the Miss India Wheelchair 2017-18, people from all sorts of companies, and publishing houses started calling her for motivational talks. “When I got the platform, I realized that now I have the attention and that I have the chance to do something. I decided to talk about the problems faced by people in wheelchairs because I faced it a lot of times.“
Ankita’s main aim is to bring a change in the mindset of the people. “I want to tell people that we don’t want your sympathy and it does not really matter how you call us because your thoughts don’t define us as people. I want you to know that it won’t make a change if you call us disabled or differently abled. We should be known by our name, not by any sort of tags,” says the righteous influencer.
She recognises that she is blessed to have such a huge amount of support from friends and family alike, while being financially independent. Ankita reflects on life saying, “I can go out, and talk to people, and initiate to bring about a change. But what about the people who live in rural areas who can’t afford such things? For them, we don’t have many facilities in the country, such as accommodation, ramps, and basic accessibility. Many things need to change in the country and I’m trying to bring about that change.“
She wants to make people understand that it doesn’t matter how you look, or how people judge you, you need to be confident in your own skin. “Whatever you are, wherever you are, just know that you are beautiful. Be passionate about what you want to achieve. Just don’t die before that.” What a beautiful and empowering thought, isn’t it?
Ankita’s never-give-up attitude is what makes her this strong woman and an ideal influencer in today’s world. No matter what difficulties you face in life, having that positive outlook to live each day to the fullest is the only way to be. Buddha once said, “No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again.” All you need is a little encouragement, focusing not on the past but rather on the future and all of the possibilities that it holds.