The Weekend Leader - 'Role Model' award for intellectually disabled Devanshi Joshi

'Role Model' award for intellectually disabled Devanshi Joshi

New Delhi



For the past two and half years, 27-year-old Devanshi Joshi has been working in the fashion department of Big Bazaar in a plush south Delhi locality. She completes all the assigned tasks without seeking concessions, with great dedication, enthusiasm, and responsibility, contributing on par with other team members.

Joshi's accomplishments are often recognised by her managers, who reward her with appreciation and prizes. She has her own credit card and a bank account, where her salary is deposited regularly every month. She has total eight years of formal work experience as a regular, full-time employee.

Sounds like a normal young working woman from Delhi, right?

Except that Joshi is the first employee of the Future Group with intellectual disability in the neuro-diversity category, she has Down Syndrome.

Adding yet another feather in her already feathery cap, Joshi has been selected for an award as 'Role Model' by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. She will be awarded at the hands of the President of India on December 3, 2021, the International Day for Persons with Disability.

Every year on this day, the Ministry gives away awards in various categories to the Persons with Disabilities (PwD) across the entire spectrum of physical and intellectual disabilities, to acknowledge and encourage their significant achievements, as well as the exemplary work done by various able-bodied persons, professionals and organisations rendering yeoman's service in the field.

Along with her parents, Anil and Rashmi, Joshi interacted with media persons ahead of the award function. Decked up as any other young woman, Joshi spoke with confidence and answered questions coherently, even dropping a line or two of witty responses.

"An award for me as a role model should serve parents of children with Down Syndrome as an inspiration," Joshi told IANS.

Exchanging notes about latest fashion, posing for photos for her Facebook profile and generally chit-chatting about her work, that too in a lively manner belie Joshi's problem, the Down Syndrome. It is a type of intellectual disability (discovered by the scientist Dr Langdon Down, hence named after him) due to a genetic disorder resulting in cognitive and developmental delays.

Thanks to her parents' motivation, Joshi studied in a regular, inclusive school till class 8th after which she cleared her X and XII board examination from National Open School.

Joshi's father Anil and her mother Rashmi, as the President of the Down Syndrome Parents Society, New Delhi, are both actively involved in organising and participating in various indoor and outdoor events to encourage parents' participation and to raise awareness of the society at large about the issue. A constant endeavour on part of the couple is to counsel and mentor thousands of special families along with the active participation of their daughter.

A homemaker, Rashmi has dedicated her entire life to the upbringing and holistic development of Devanshi, right from her early years. More than that, she has been sharing her precious insights with special mothers across all the age groups all over India, helping them overcome multiple challenges and difficulties. Anil Joshi completed his tenure as programme director of Human Abilities and Accessibility initiative of IBM India Research Labs, New Delhi.

Over the last three decades, he has been voluntarily involved in the field of disabilities in India and abroad in multiple roles as accessibility evangelist, activist, counsellor, pan-disability communicator, policy researcher, speaker and more.

Devanshi champions the cause of Rights of Persons with Disabilities, highlighting specific needs of those with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. She gets regularly invited on various online and offline platforms as self-advocate, to raise awareness in the society about the rights and challenges of persons with disabilities. In 2020, she was invited to speak in the programme hosted at the UN in Geneva. But as the event got postponed due to the pandemic, she shared her thoughts this year online in the august presence of international dignitaries.

Although getting an award from the President of India is special, being awarded is not a new thing for her. She had received similar award under the 'Best Employee' category on December 3, 2016, again, instituted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Helen Keller award and many other awards from state, local and social organisations in recognition and appreciation of her achievements, inherent qualities, skills, and well-rounded personality.

Her past achievements also include honour by Special Olympics India as 'Youth Leader'; being identified by the Election Commission of India as an icon in their National Awareness Campaign in 2019 to motivate persons with disabilities to vote and being part of an award-winning documentary, 'Raising the Bar' covering the stories of select special persons with Down syndrome and their families from Australia and India.

In 2020, she was invited to speak in the programme hosted at the UN in Geneva, but pandemic prevented travel and she shared her thoughts virtually. "Hopefully, if all is well, they are inviting us in 2022," an excited Joshi said. -IANS

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