Monthly Archives: May 2016

Obama re-appoints visually-impaired Indian-American to key admin post

Sachin Dev Pavithran once again becomes a member of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board

India At Large staff

US President Barack Obama has announced to reappoint Indian-American Sachin Dev Pavithran to a key independent government agency devoted to accessibility for people with disabilities.

Pavithran has been reappointed as a Member of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, the White House said as it announced other key administration appointments.

Created in 1973 to ensure access to federally funded facilities, the board is now a leading source of information on accessible design.

“These dedicated individuals bring a wealth of experience and talent to their new roles and I am proud to have them serve in this administration. I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come,” Obama said in a statement on May 5.

Pavithran was first appointed to Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board in 2012 and has served as chair since 2015. He is programme director of Utah assistive technology programme at Utah State University’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, a position he has held since 2011.

He has served in a variety roles at the centre since 2002, including programme coordinator and Disability Policy Analyst. He has more than 15 years of experience as a consultant in developing, testing, and training users of assistive technology and accessible websites.

The Utah State University alumnus serves on the Association of Assistive Technology Act Programs National Board, the Research and Development Committee of the National Federation of the Blind, and the National Multicultural Council of the Association of University Centers for Disabilities.

In 2016, Pavithran was selected as one of Government Technology’s Top 25 Doers, Dreamers & Drivers for his accomplishments in using technology to improve government operations.

Pavithran, now based in Washington, was diagnosed with degenerative blindness after the age of 4. “I could never imagine myself in the path where I am now 10 years back… Then, I was totally dependent on others,” Pavithran, who hails from Kannur in Kerala, was quoted as saying to The New Indian Express in an interview last year.

Leaving India at the age of 17, Sachin did his bachelors and Masters in Computer Science from the Utah State University, US. Afterwards, he took up a job as a computer programmer at the university.

He soon joined a civil services job where he started advocating for equal rights for the differently-abled. He told The New Indian Express, “I first started out as a volunteer after which I became a regular practitioner. Initially it was a job which soon became a passion. My work also involved meeting so many people and it was at this time that I met a very successful lawyer who was also a victim of blindness. I started questioning myself: If he did not let his disability define his life, then why should I?” Soon after, he was appointed to the US Access Board, rising through the ranks to become the chairman.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Pic courtesy: Facebook

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Meet Sasindran Muthuvel, the first Indian-origin governor of a Papua New Guinea province

41-year-old Sivakasi native landed in country over 20 years ago in search of livelihood

India At Large staff

For Sasindran Muthuvel, the first Indian-origin governor of province in Papua New Guinea (PNG), it has been an eventful journey since he left Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu in search of livelihood over 20 years ago.

As per PTI, 41-year-old Muthuvel went to PNG to take up a job as a manager in a retail shop. “I thought I will be getting closer to Australia and later I will migrate to that country as a skilled immigrant,” he recalled.

But destiny had planned something else for him. The shop was shut down and he started his own outlet which expanded into a chain. With rising popularity, he decided to jump into the electoral fray and became Governor of West New Britain in 2009. “I came to Malaysia in 1995 after completing Bachelor of Science in Horticulture, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Periyakulam and spotted an advertisement in a newspaper in 1997 about an opening in PNG,” he told PTI.

“It is actually this advertisement which changed my life completely,” he said.

Muthuvel became manager of a retail outlet which was owned by a Singaporean national. But, unfortunately, his owner decided to wind up business there and return. “I was shocked with the sudden turn of events. I was left with two options – either to return or to find my way out in the Island and I chose the latter,” he said, adding with a smile, “I do not have any regrets.”

Muthuvel started a small chain of retail outlets by the name of Hamammas which means ‘I am happy’ in the local language and returned home to get married. His wife, Subha, hails from Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.

Both husband and wife worked hard to expand their business. They also started charity work and extended help to the needy. “I do not know how I became popular but then I decided to jump into the electoral arena as I got my citizenship in May 2007. I floated a new party and contested the elections and won. Later I joined the ruling People’s National Party,” he said.

The initial years were tough. “I have survived merely on rice and yogurt for nearly a year till I started cooking local green vegetables,” Muthuvel, who is a vegetarian, said. “I used to miss my sambar and rice and other vegetarian delicacies of my state but as they say when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” he said.

The governor, who was awarded ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award’ by Indian Government in 2012, feels that there is a lot of potential for Indian companies to set up their base in PNG.

“The operating cost may be high but the profit is equally high,” he said. “I am looking forward to Indian companies coming here and helping us in areas like growing rice and other vegetables, exploration of oil and natural gas, gold mining,” he said, adding: “I hope that they (Indian businessmen) will come one day.”

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