Friday, January 16, 2015

Ramping up a wheelchair-friendly drive

(My article in The Gulf Today)
Sharjah: When the wheel of  misfortune rolls over, many a people crumble. But not Dubai resident Shobhika Kalra, 24, who was diagnosed a decade ago with a rare inherited degenerative disorder, Friedrich Ataxia, which pushed her onto a wheelchair, forever.
Though she struggled initially to come to terms with her condition, the BBA marketing graduate from the American University of Dubai has now turned out to be a source of inspiration for millions across the globe who are forced to endure life on a wheelchair.
She has teamed up with her sister, Ruchika Kalra, to start a global non-profit social campaign called “Wings of Angelz” that aims at making the world wheelchair-friendly by building ramps.
Shobhika was reportedly the first case of Friedreich’s Ataxia in the UAE.
“My mission is to have at least 50 access ramps installed in Dubai this year,” declares Shobhika, who works with her mother, a well-known psychologist.
The results are already showing in Dubai. The list of places that the campaign has helped build a ramp in Dubai in 2014 are: Entry route to the Dubai Metro stations (8 ramps built, 15 in progress), AGMC (Volunteer- RZ Samuel), Deira and Beee’ah (volunteer G. Chacko).
“RTA officers like Eng. Hussain Al Banna (Director of Traffic department) and Eng Helal Al Sahi (Traffic safety manager) were especially encouraging,” she points out.
Places that have committed to the ramp and work is in progress are: Bab Al Shams Hotel, Sumo Sushi & Benito , Town Centre, GMC, Deira.
There are also locations that have found an alternative route for wheel-chair bound people.
The sisters identified important places that do not provide access for the disabled. They clicked photographs of the entrances and contacted appropriate authorities requesting a ramp.
The “fabulous” response prompted the two to start their own Facebook page Wings of Angels. (
“It all started after my sister and I went to a cinema in Bhopal. Seeing my discomfort to enter the seating area, my sister went and spoke to the manager about it. The manager replied that there are not many people on the wheelchair. This upset us and turned out to be the major reason behind the initiative,” explains Shobhika.
While in Dubai there is already a lot of contribution from volunteers, the initiative is gaining global support.
The team now has over 35 Wing-eers spread over the UAE, India, Sri Lanka and China.
“Our Wing-eers have recently done amazing things,” Shobhika explains. “My sister ran a full marathon and skydived last year wearing the Wings of Angelz T-shirt to spread awareness; Cebie recently completed a trek to Annapurna Base Camp (ABC), Nepal - 4,130 metres in a week; Mohan Ramdas did a trek at Roopkund at an altitude of 16,000 Ft for 5 days to promote the cause.

“The mission is rolling on smoothly, but is far from over,” smiles Shobhika. “There is no rest until the world turns wheelchair-friendly.”


  1. Those who take initiatives,never get left behind

  2. Good luck to a lovely human being and good luck to the initiative..

    Well done to Shobhika