As a person with disability, Dr Anita Sharma knows firsthand how
important it is to feel empowered and confident. Through her initiative On My
Own, she is determined to teach people with disabilities and the elderly how
Just six years old when she was paralysed from the waist down in a polio
attack, Dr Anita Sharma never allowed disability to come in
the way of pursuing her ambitions. Originally from Jaipur, Anita has a Ph.D.
from the Indian Institute of Management, Indore (IIM-I) in
Disability and Entrepreneurship and started driving a retrofitted vehicle in
“Driving gave me wings and I could go wherever I wanted”, says Anita. “Before
that, I was dependent on my parents and most of their time was spent on me
when they could have been doing so many other things”.
At IIM-I, Anita would get plenty of curious stares and questions when she
would drive around. She realised how unusual it was for a person with
disability to drive. When she moved to Chandigarh, a person with disability
known to her friend, approached her for driving lessons. One thing led to
another and soon many more disabled people started asking her.
“I went to Amritsar briefly and put a small post in the Voice of
Amritsar, a Facebook group, that I have a passion for teaching
driving to people with disabilities”, recalls Anita, “and many people reached
out”. One of them in particular, a 24-year-old boy named
Rahul, who was paralysed from the waist down, touched her.
Rahul lived in a town far away from Amritsar which had no Ola or Uber service
and was completely dependent. Anita would travel on weekends to teach him.
Such experiences led her to launch the initiative On My Own in
Amritsar after quitting her job at IIM, Amritsar.
I called over 2,000 driving schools and found that none of them offered
driving lessons to people with disabilities. None of them had retrofitted
cars or the special driving licenses needed to teach people with
disabilities. That led me to start On My Own in 2017, a driving school for
people with reduced mobility. – Dr Anita Sharma, Founder, On My
Teaching Rahul led Anita to look closely into the specific needs of people
with disabilities, like wheelchair users. “I started going to the Chandigarh
Spinal Rehabilitation Centre and found that there were many people who had
been disabled later in life and were skeptical of driving again. Many people
didn’t have the confidence they could drive at all”.
Since then Anita has taught nearly over a 100 people and does consultations
with disabled people and their families called Coffee
Conversations. She also helps them get a driving license and
customised cars. She prefers to train one person at a time as everybody has
their own specific needs. “Everyone is unique, and I try and find out where
their strength lies”. “Thanks to Dr Sharma, I have booked my own car now”,
says Ajay Kumar, a Chandigarh resident. “Special thanks to
her for setting me on the path to independence”. “Just the thought of my
daughter driving her own car is liberating”, says Gunjan
The training at On My Own covers petrol costs, and the rates vary depending
on individual needs. “If I am teaching someone who knew how to drive before
they were disabled, then it’s just a question of unlearning what they did
before”, points out Anita. For people with spinal cord injuries, the needs
vary. “Those with incomplete injuries still have some strength in their legs
and can easily drive without modifications. It’s just a question of knowing
where their strength lies, that’s all”.
Going ahead, Anita has even more plans, including designing car on which
wheelchair users can enter directly.
Contact Dr Anita Sharma for lessons at this website – On My