Prime Minister Narendra Modi loves a good photo-op. And the inauguration of the Rs 8,000 crore-Kochi Metro, the fastest one to be built in India, was seen as the perfect opportunity, even if it came at the cost of some controversy. E Sreedharan – popularly known as the “Metro man” for his leadership of the Delhi Metro project till his retirement – who oversaw the Kochi Metro project from inception to the final stage, was initially not invited to the inauguration.
“Don’t make it into a controversy,” Sreedharan, who has, ironically, been considered a possibility as NDA’s nominee for President of India, had said. It was only after a public outcry and a letter from Kerala Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to Modi about the “gross omission”, that Sreedharan’s name was eventually added.
As soon as his name was mentioned on stage on Sunday night and he waved to the crowd, Sreedharan was greeted with the loudest and most sustained applause and cheers.
Watch Ruchir's journey: A story that captures the impact of accessible technology
Accessible technology has the potential to change lives.
“Technology can be a great leveller”, affirms Ruchir Falodia, Social Media Manager, TATA CLiQ. Out of the many qualities that define Ruchir as a person, one that stands out is that he is an autodidact – a self-taught coder and lover of technology.
Ruchir’s story is one that humanises technology - it has always played the role of a supportive friend who would look beyond his visual impairment. A top ranker through school and college, Ruchir would scan course books and convert them to a format which could be read out to him (in the absence of e-books for school). He also developed a lot of his work ethos on the philosophy of Open Source software, having contributed to various open source projects. The access provided by Open Source, where users could take a source code, modify it and distribute their own versions of the program, attracted him because of the even footing it gave everyone.
That is why I like being in programming. Nobody cares if you are in a wheelchair. Whatever be your physical disability, you are equal with every other developer. If your code works, good. If it doesn’t, you’ll be told so.
Motivated by the objectivity that technology provided, Ruchir made it his career. Despite having earned degree in computer engineering and an MBA, friends and family feared his visual impairment would prove difficult to overcome in a work setting. But Ruchir, who doesn’t like quotas or the ‘special’ tag he is often labelled with, used technology to prove that differently abled persons can work on an equal footing.
As he delved deeper into the tech space, Ruchir realised that he sought to explore the human side of technology. A fan of Agatha Christie and other crime novels, he wanted to express himself through storytelling and steered his career towards branding and marketing – which he sees as another way to tell stories.
Ruchir, then, migrated to Mumbai for the next phase in his career. It was in the Maximum City that his belief in technology being the great leveller was reinforced. “The city’s infrastructure is a challenging one, Uber helped me navigate the city” says Ruchir. By using the VoiceOver features, Ruchir could call an Uber wherever he was and move around easily. He reached out to Uber to see if together they could spread the message of accessible technology. This partnership resulted in a video that captures the essence of Ruchir’s story: The World in Voices.
It was important for Ruchir to get rid of the sympathetic lens through which others saw him. His story serves as a message of reassurance to other differently abled persons and abolishes some of the fears, doubts and prejudices present in families, friends, employers or colleagues.