Gokul Retnakar, a wheelchair user from Trivandrum is a social worker, legal advisor and founder of ‘CanWalk’, a venture that supports wheelchair users in Kerala. Gokul talks about different projects in pipeline and why it is crucial to promote inclusion.
Gokul Retnakar, 36 years old, met with a car accident in the year 2006 when he was pursuing a degree course. He has been a wheelchair user since then. Someone who was active in social work while at school and college, Gokul is still continuing his passion. Based in Trivandrum with his wife and two kids, Gokul who is also a legal advisor and co-founder of ‘CanWalk’ hopes to reach out to as many people with disabilities as possible.
After a car accident in the year 2006, Gokul was bed-ridden for months. He was 22 years old at that time and living his best life at college with friends. Soon after the accident, he had a lot of people around him who made sure that he bounced back to life. There was no room for sadness.
“During those days, I did not know what the future held in store for me. Moreover, I never knew anything about rehabilitation because there was no awareness about disabilities during that time. When I look back now, I feel I should have sorted my priorities back then. In fact, the internet helped me a lot to cope with my disability. It is through YouTube that I actually learnt how to properly use a wheelchair”, says Gokul.
Sitting on a wheelchair, Gokul completed his LLB course and became a lawyer. He is currently running his own institute and also works as a legal advisor. He started ‘CanWalk’ last year along with a few other wheelchair users. Through their numerous ventures, they support wheelchair users in Kerala who need assistive devices and other medical help. Most of their activities are done through social media. A bunch of kind-hearted people are always willing to help by raising funds.
“Gradually we realized that providing financial help is just momentary. Something needs to be done for the long-term. I wanted to reach out to those like me who met with accidents later on in life and had a disability”, says Gokul.
Currently, he is working on a project for disabled people at Attappadi in Wayanad where there are many tribal communities. According to Gokul, there are government initiated projects for tribal people in which he wants disabled people from the same tribal communities to take part in. “They are vulnerable and face many problems. Disabled people in these places have a better social life there unlike those who dwell in urban cities. Their involvement in mainstream activities are also way better. I hope I can be instrumental in improving their lives”, says Gokul.
Living the best life
Social work keeps Gokul busy. The pandemic and lockdown has affected the institute that he runs, but he is sure to bounce back.
The birth of his twins has given him immense joy. His wife Meenu, whom he married in the year 2017, is his biggest pillar of strength.
He drives his own customized car which has helped him become independent. In fact, he drove his car all the way from Trivandrum to Attappadi, nearly 400 kms, on his own.
“Society is still immature when it comes to understanding needs of disabled people. Look at how inaccessible our places are! People must understand that members from the disabled community are not sitting and crying over what happened to them. We have a life and we live it just like anybody else. We have dreams and aspirations. That is why it is important to respect our needs and accessibility is a great way to promote inclusion”, signs off Gokul.