Winners among the ‘Different Normals’

Inclusivity has become the mantra for today, and individuals like Avelino de Sa and Frederika Menezes prove its significance by the heights they have achieved in spite of their disabilities.

Avelino de Sa has already made a name for himself as the president of the Disability Rights Association of Goa (DRAG), constantly championing causes and programmes that will benefit the differently abled. Avelino was born with cerebral palsy but has surmounted his difficulty in walking by leading a relatively normal life. A Commerce graduate from Dempo College, Panaji, Avelino is also a certified investment and tax consultant with his own firm in Panaji. Under his presidency, DRAG has won the Godfrey Phillips Bravery Award for the year 2004-05 for Exceptional Act of Social Courage, and the Goa State Award 2007 for the Best NGO for the Welfare of the Disabled in Goa. Much of the changes in terms of accessibility for the differently abled that one sees in Goa have been brought about through the efforts of Avelino. DRAG has made strides in obtaining justice for differently abled individuals while making them aware of their rights and sensitising the public.

In 2015, Avelino, who is a member of the North Goa Local Level Committee of the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities and the National Committee for the Protection of Rights for Persons with Disability, received the ADAPT National Award for activism. He has been featured in Yes We Can,

a book about a hundred differently-abled entrepreneurs from all over India, published by the National Handicapped Finance Corporation. Avelino was most recently awarded Dr Batra’s Positive Health Hero 2019.

Frederika Menezes wears many hats as an author, poet, and even dabbling in art. Her effervescent personality lights up any room she graces. Frederika attended a mainstream school, People’s High School, Panaji, despite being confined to a wheelchair because of cerebral palsy. Her first book was a collection of poems titled The Portrait. A poem written by Frederika was included by the International Library of Poetry, Australia, in an anthology of poems called Fire in the Heart. Her first novel was The Pepperns and Wars of the Mind, of the fiction/fantasy genre. She has written Stories in Rhyme, a book of verse for children and a novel Unforgotten, which is a love story. Her poem ‘The Different Normals’ is part of the class X English textbook of the Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education. This eternal optimist, whose activism for the differently abled has been widely acknowledged, has been awarded the JCI India Young Person of the Year 2019.

The accolades of Avelino and Frederika should inspire parents of differently-abled children to hope for the best for their children and teach the general public to be more empathetic and open-minded towards the differently abled.