The real 'joy of Sports' is when you 'Play without Barriers', believes Aditya KV of Umoya Sports

Aug. 19, 2020, 12:50 p.m.

By:Reshma Jain

It was in 2008 when Aditya suffered a major sports injury forcing him to be bedridden for a long time. While being dependent on using wheelchairs and crutches to walk, there were times when he was called names, was denied participation due to his limitations, had to depend on others for basic daily chores. These experiences made him realize the challenges faced by people with disabilities (PWD) on a daily basis. This experience chiseled his desire to work for a cause and to bring a change in the lives of disabled people.

His belief in using sports as a tool for development got reinforced during his stint at Teach for India. During the fellowship, he also interned in an NGO working for disabled to understand the needs and limitations of special kids where he realized the importance of physical activities. Aditya later worked at an International sports organization, where they had to deny participation to kids with special needs. This disturbed him and he realized the lack of opportunities in the field of sports available for these kids. Thus, reflecting from these personal experiences and his passion for sports have led him to create a platform for building an inclusive sports ecosystem.

Aditya quit his cushioned corporate job to work in the social sector as a full-time educator in a low-income under-resourced school in the slums of Mumbai, India. Experiencing and learning about the complex social challenges in fields of disabilities and education, Aditya chose to become an entrepreneur to start ‘Umoya Sports’ with an aim to leverage the power of sports and education to develop life-skills among students with disabilities.

When like-minded people extend their hands, it makes a great team and this is what Umoya believes in. Lokesh, a National level sports person had a back injury while playing football and was bedridden for a long time. He went through mental and physical trauma and from then on, he decided to bring an impact among the disabled by creating an inclusive sports culture and adaptive physical education in our country. Thus he joined Umoya sports as a team member.

Dikshita, a sports science graduate and a national yoga athlete, is currently working as a Programme associate at Umoya Sports. She had a serious medical condition and as a result, she had multiple operations and was bed-ridden. This was one of most frustrating and demotivating times, but also made her realise the need for inner belief and strength. She believes that with the power of sports, disabled students can definitely break the barriers and achieve the best. And now, the trio are working towards impacting the lives of hundreds of students through sports.

Umoya Sports’ yearlong sports education programme for students with and without disabilities equips them with life skills to lead an enriching life, and creates an inclusive culture in schools. “Our structured in-school programmes are especially curated for students with intellectual disabilities, developmental disabilities, and locomotor disabilities by integrating academic outcomes, life-skills while developing sports skills. Umoya Sports also hosts inclusive sports festivals to change the social narrative about disabilities by bringing children, youth and young adults with and without

disabilities from schools and communities to play together thus breaking the social stigma. When students participate in these programmes with the help of our adapted sports mentors, they not only improve their motor-skills, physical and mental fitness, but also build foundational 21st century skills of team work, confidence and problem solving,” shares Aditya, the Founder and CEO of Umoya Sports, a non-profit based out of Delhi NCR.

In these times of uncertainty with the schools closed and no play for children, especially the ones with disabilities face a range of challenges. “Keeping our children’s well-being at the centre and to make play more accessible, we have launched Ability Spark - an At-Home Play and Wellbeing Programme. We have created an online play toolkit with videos and instructions, with age and skill-appropriate adaptations making it inclusive for all children with different learning abilities,” said Aditya adding that they have hosted 5 inclusive sports festivals in partnership with organizations such as FIFA U17 World Cup India and Delhi Dynamos.

Ability Spark is an 'inclusive digital physical education programme' for all children (whether disabled or non-disabled) with the focus on developing overall physical and mental well-being through yoga and fun outcome-based sports and physical education activities. They aim to ensure that all children continue to engage in relevant, age, and skill-appropriate play and fitness activities from their homes. This month-long programme was launched in July, and has got an overwhelming response with more than 400 parents and 95 school teachers, NGOs and organizations having registered for the programme, enabling them to reach about 9,000 children daily.

“We are currently spreading sports to more than 1,250 children with and without disabilities across 7 schools in Delhi NCR and Bangalore. With RTE making a mandate to include children with special needs in schools, we aim to build an inclusive culture in every school through sports and build equal opportunities to all. The big vision is to establish Adaptive Physical education and integrate our sports programmes in government and low-income schools,” said the young change maker adding that Umoya Sports is also part of UNESCO Youth and Sports taskforce group and has been shortlisted for prestigious international awards such as Beyond Sports Awards and Zero Project Awards.

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