Accessibility for the disabled remains woefully inadequate even in a metropolis like Mumbai. To promote accessibility for para-sportspersons, a friendly match of the wheelchair-bound basketball team of Mumbai --Project Mumbai Wheelers -- was played in Mumbai on Sunday, wherein able-bodied persons were given an opportunity to join in and shoot hoops while being wheelchair-bound.
The initiative is part of a larger objective to make Mumbai more accessible to those physically challenged and draw the attention of citizens to para-sports.
Talking to The Free Press Journal, Project Mumbai CEO Shishir Joshi said, “From a sporting point of view, we want the players to ace
the Paralympics and from a social point of view, we want a change in the mindset of people and make 100 more institutions accessible for the differently-abled.” Some of the players also included national and international level basketball players.
Geeta Chouhan, 32, a member of the national women’s wheelchair basketball team, said, “We should never think of a disability as a disability. I love to play and I want to win the gold at the Paralympics for my country. I want to keep this dream alive.”
The coach of the team, Captain Louis George Meprath, a retired Indian Navy officer, said, “Playing basketball in a wheelchair is very difficult, you have to control the wheelchair and the ball. These players have done exceptionally well.”
“A normal wheelchair costs Rs 40,000 but an advanced one for playing sports costs around Rs 5.3 lakh. We are constantly looking for sponsors. We are aiming for the Paralympics and I know that my players can do it,” he added.
Mumbai-based NGO Project Mumbai aims to provide accessible playing infrastructure, coaching support and employment opportunities to basketball players in wheelchairs not just in Mumbai and but across Maharashtra.
Sharing his experience, an able-bodied organiser of the event, Antony Mascarenhas, who tried shooting the ball while in a wheelchair said, “Playing the sport while balancing on a wheelchair is indeed difficult, the willpower and energy of the players is commendable.”
Project Mumbai collaborated and partnered with the Mumbai Wheelers Wheel Chair Basket Ball Association and the alumni of Dominic Savio school for conducting the event. Parents of children on wheelchairs were also invited to watch and be inspired.