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  • Writer's pictureReshma Jain

India’s Glass Woman- Her Reflections as a disability evangelist

Popularly known as India’s glass woman, Dhanya Ravi was born with a rare genetic disease called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (OI). The term "Osteogenesis Imperfecta" means imperfect bone formation. People with this condition have bones that break (fracture) easily, often from mild trauma or with no apparent cause. Multiple fractures are common, and in severe cases, can occur even before birth.

It was her early life difficulties of having more than 200 fractures in her body and lack of awareness regarding rare diseases that compelled Dhanya to be the voice for the disabled community. Dhanya was tutored at home until 10th grade. She then pursued a Bachelor of Preparative program from India Gandhi Open University and did an online novel writing certificate course.

Dhanya is now a freelance content writer, digital marketer, and disability evangelist. Dhanya advocates the need for a more inclusive society and strives to raise awareness about rare genetic conditions. Since there is no permanent cure for OI, she wishes to bring in a policy wherein it is mandatory to screen for genetic diseases at the early stages of pregnancy. Currently, she is active in mobilization and sensitization for OI, rare diseases, and the disabled community, both individually and in collaboration with different non-profit organizations (NGOs) in India and USA.

“The character of OI is that until teenagers, we go through a lot of bone fractures. During my early childhood, there was not much awareness of this condition. Hence, it led to a lot of deformities in my physical structure. This gradually led to respiratory, dental, and otolaryngology issues,” reminisced Dhanya.

In her early 20s, a newspaper report compelled her into something which she identifies as her purpose in life. Her life stories and her experience of meeting different people around the globe through the Disability Awareness and advocacy programs have brought her many testimonials. The women’s community has found a source of power to live a life of independence through her life message and mentorship.

“My journey in the social sector expanding up to 12 years, has been more of learning from other’s experiences (in the community space) and helping each other within our limits. Life itself is a precious gift and no matter what life throws at us, we can still create meaning in our lives and build our identity,” states the glass woman who believed in embracing every moment with gratefulness each time she recovered from bone fractures.

She was instrumental in the formation of Amrithavarshini wherein she began creating awareness about OI through public speaking, news shows and TV interviews.

Stating that she knows the struggle of a PWD and their parents, she added, “One of my greater visions is to see a rare disease-free India, I hope the hospitals in our country bring up policies for the mandatory genetic test (for people who plan for a family). It is also important to have fetal medicine specialists, mandatory new-born screening and genetic counselling cells.

Dhanya said that she along with her friends were able to organise India's largest fashion show by differently-abled individuals. They were also instrumental in creating ‘Olangal’ - inclusive cover album which was released on maestro Ilaiyaraja's YouTube channel.

Termed as ‘Zelda’, this is an initiative by Aasmaan Foundation Trust organised to celebrate womanhood in their community. Dhanya, apart from the other projects is also working on a project to distribute powered wheelchairs.

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