The website provides information about specialists, therapy, equipment and other services for people with special needs and those living with disability.

Check out Chennai duos one-stop-site for persons with physical and intellectual disabilitiesAdvitya (L) and Rashmi (R)
Atom Disability Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 17:39

Rashmi Devaprasath remembers the first time she felt she belonged somewhere. A daughter of two doctors, she decided to do B.Com because she didn’t want to do medicine. But her heart wasn’t in it. Instead, she found her calling when her friend’s mother, the principal of a special needs school, invited her and a few others to conduct music programs and workshops with the children there.

“It felt right. It came naturally in a way that studying for my course at the time didn’t,” Rashmi recalls. This was in 2003. Soon after that, the idea of creating a directory for people living with disability and developmental disorders like autism took root. But it wasn’t until September last year that it materialised into ‘Special Sources’.

Rashmi and her childhood friend Advitya Thapa registered the Special Sources Foundation in September last year. After considerable groundwork and networking, the 33-year-olds launched the beta version of the website last week. 

The website provides information about specialists, therapy, equipment and other services for people with special needs and those living with disability. Currently, the authenticated service providers in the directory – 110 of them – are limited to Chennai.

“Chennai is our home and so it made sense to make mistakes and get our ducks in a row here. We eventually hope to expand to a pan-India level,” says Rashmi. 

She says that one of the aims of the directory is to provide an array of options to people: “Something that works for one may not for the other. The idea is to ensure that people with disabilities and special needs, or even their caregivers, know that they have options.” 

They have also included geriatric service providers (healthcare for the elderly) in the directory, but have not listed it separately.

“We realised that many things we were covering – equipment like wheelchairs, reliable home nurses, doctors and physiotherapists – were also services which the elderly may require. Schizophrenia Research Foundation (SCARF), an NGO, helped us with the resources there. So, it’s another area we are looking at,” Rashmi explains.      

Rashmi says that Special Sources has been an idea in the works for almost eight years now. After graduating, she did a diploma in special education in 2004 and began working full time as a special educator. She also worked for a year in Kanyakumari at a hospital run by her family. It was there that she realised how little reliable information was available for the disabled or for people who had a child with a developmental disorder.

“I became a consultant of sorts there because of my work experience as a special educator. But I am not qualified to make a medical assessment. I used to try and find places where parents could get their children assessed but the information was all so scattered. Something had to be done to consolidate it,” she says.

Rashmi could not however, devote herself full time to the idea then. She completed her Masters in Autism from a Scottish University and it was only when Advitya, who has a background in psychology, came on board early last year, that the two began working on Special Sources full time.

The two began to look for service providers on various platforms – social media, Google, word of mouth – but realised that they needed a platform to get people on board. So they developed the website with the help of Ikas Technologies, the company Rashmi's husband owns, registered the Foundation and started networking again.

Service providers can also register on the website, but will be listed only when Rashmi and Advitya authenticate them. This involves calling to make sure their contacts are correct and verifying the services they provide. The latter can prove tricky sometimes: 

“For instance, physiotherapists who have just done a few diploma courses may list themselves as a ‘doctor’. This is not accurate. We need to ensure that the people accessing Special Sources have access to the right people for the right purpose,” Rashmi asserts. So far they’ve received registrations from Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Vellore, Mumbai and Pune.

Apart from medical resources, Rashmi and Advitya are also planning to include leisure and recreational service providers. For instance, restaurants with disabled-friendly infrastructure, travel agencies which cater to people with special needs or disabilities, spas and parlours which cater to people in a wheelchair, Rashmi reels off.

The duo also want Special Sources to become a reference point for those looking to work, volunteer or intern in the field. But more importantly, their wish is for the directory to foster a community. 

“The tag line for Special Sources is ‘We belong’. If we can create a network of service providers and seekers, we can foster more communication and deal with the alienation that the disabled or those with developmental disorders often face,” Rashmi says.      

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