We are delighted to announce that Trishna Bharadia has become an Ambassador for ADD International! We recently caught up with her about her work as a disability activist.
Q. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I was born and brought up in the UK but my dad is originally from India and my mum is originally from Kenya. I work as a Spanish-English translator/analyst for a business information company. In my spare time I do advocacy and awareness raising work for people with chronic illness and disability, particularly hidden disability. I love dancing and in 2015 I took part in the first ever People’s Strictly for Comic Relief on BBC1, a four-part spin-off of Strictly Come Dancing that was viewed by millions of people across the UK and Europe. I danced a jive with Aljaž Škorjanec and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life!
Q. Do you consider yourself as a disability activist? Why?
Yes. I believe a disability activist is anyone who is working to improve the situation for people with disabilities in any way possible. It might be something as simple as giving a talk to raise awareness about disability in a local community or place of work, or might be as complex as getting laws changed to ensure that people with disabilities are being treated as fairly as possible. Many of the things that I’m involved in incorporate aspects of raising awareness about and helping to improve the situation for people with all types of disabilities, whether that’s directly or indirectly through the work that I do.
Q. How did you become a disability activist?
I fell into it! It was really as a result of my own situation. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis [a condition that results in ongoing damage to nerves in the brain and spinal cord] in 2008, aged 28, and increasingly realised there was lots of prejudice, stigma and obstacles present that can hinder disabled people’s pursuit of leading a positive and happy life. Particularly in the Asian community, there’s still much to be done in terms of increasing awareness about different types of disability and the potential that people with disabilities have - it shouldn’t be a case of just writing us off. My twin sister also has MS and my younger sister has ulcerative colitis. So disability/chronic illness is something that has become a very important issue in our family. We’ve all faced varying degrees of complications to aspects of our life as a result of our conditions so it’s something that I’m passionate about changing. Initially I started doing voluntary work with the UK’s MS Society and one of its national support groups, Asian MS. That led to work with other organisations and it’s grown from there. Some highlights have included speaking in parliament to the All Party Parliamentary Group on MS about issues faced by people with MS (and by extension disability) who are in employment, speaking at 10 Downing Street about volunteering and engagement within the MS community, and continually raising awareness about hidden disability amongst industry, the public, authorities, healthcare professionals and anyone else who will listen!
Q. Do you think inclusion of disabled people is important? Why?
Yes. People with disabilities should be given the chance to fulfil their potential just like anyone else. End of story. We need to be encouraging a change in culture, attitudes and, where relevant, systemic change, to ensure that people with disabilities have the tools they need in order to fulfil their potential. As a society, we should be constantly thinking about how we can be more inclusive and supportive – it’s about us moving forward together.
Q. What do you think about ADD International’s work?
The key thing I love about ADD’s work is that it’s about long-term change. It’s not about quick fixes or sticking plasters, it’s about bottom-up change that will be long-lasting and will help to create more inclusive and equitable societies and systems in the countries in which ADD works. I truly believe in the concept of helping people to help themselves and this is a concept that is a foundation for ADD’s work. It’s about encouraging change from within.
Q. Why did you decide to become our ambassador?
I was honoured to be asked to become an ambassador and given that I have close ties already to Africa and Asia, I understand many of the issues that are faced by people with disabilities in some of the countries in which ADD works. I believe that given my vast experience and connections with so many different stakeholders, I’ll be able to bring some unique and valuable insight to the charity’s work, which will hopefully help and support its various aims and objectives, as well as specific projects. I’m the sort of person that thinks if you want to see change happen, then you need to be part of that change. By being an ADD ambassador, hopefully, I’ll be doing that!