Harsh Songra is a 21-year-old disability activist from Bhopal on a mission to make society a more inclusive space for everybody.
He has been working towards this dream for several years now, first with a mobile application called ‘MyChild’ and now with the media platform ‘We, Included’.
His work has brought him much recognition and more than 500 friend requests in one night when Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg mentioned him in her blog post, appreciating his work! Harsh has also been named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list at the age of 19.
We reached out to Harsh to learn about how the journey has been for him as a youngster trying to start a serious discussion around an important topic.
When Harsh was nine, he was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a developmental disorder which causes difficulty in activities involving coordination and movement.
Since he could not go out to play, Harsh started playing video games at home.
“One day, I asked my dad how these games were made and he introduced me to coding. I found it very interesting and I started learning on my own,” he told us.
At 18, Harsh used his new-found love for coding to build MyChild app which helps parents screen children who are younger than 24 months for development disorders. The parent has to enter information on the height, weight, and age of the child, and answer a series of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ questions. The app then gives out a result and, through a collaboration with Practo, allows the parent to make appointments with doctors.
Harsh was a teenager who knew how to hustle. In the beginning, when he wanted to get the word out about the application, Harsh would go to newspaper offices and contact journalists in the hope that they would write about him.
“At first, I felt like I was being narcissistic But then I realised that other people hired Public Relations teams to get them publicity. I was just doing it for myself,” Harsh said.
Being unabashed in approaching people paid off for Harsh. An official from the National Rural Health Mission in his state was impressed by his work and put in a word to a journalist at a national Hindi newspaper. That got Harsh front page coverage and from then on, things were easier.
Harsh swears by the art of cold emailing. He even got investors for his company by sending emails to people he had never met before.
He built the app based on his own experience with dyspraxia, where lack of knowledge about the disorder led to late diagnosis.
Taking the conversation beyond an app
But leaving it at an app was not enough. Harsh then started We, Included, a platform where he and his two co-founders write and make videos on about disabilities, disorders, and diseases.
They have written articles such as ‘Mental Health of people suffering from physical disability’ and videos such as ‘What is Dyspraxia?’.
Harsh started out as a techie, coding for 48 hours at a stretch. But now, with ‘We, Included’, he has become more of a filmmaker, shooting and editing video content for the site.
On the future of the company, Harsh says, “One thing I have learned is that you need to have patience. You don’t know what opportunities will come your way so all you have to do is keep going.”
Harsh wants to keep at it, creating movies and writing articles, as long as it takes to make society a more welcoming and inclusive space for everyone.
You can check out We, Included here to learn about different disorders and disabilities and challenges people living with them face.