Like many children, Akram Ramadan Misrawi, 24, began playing badminton because it was something his family did.
“I started out since young because usually my family would, especially during the holidays, invite me out to play badminton for recreation, under the void deck,” recalled Akram.
It did not matter that he was born with skeletal dysplasia and that the condition affected the development of his limbs so he could neither walk nor grip things properly.
“I can’t really hold [the racket] the way normal players do for most of the shots, so I have to improvise in a way that suits my disability,” he said.
His family encouraged him anyway.
“They know how active I am, they know how I like badminton, so they asked me to try it.”
Soon, fun family activity gave way to aspiration and Akram began dreaming of playing for Singapore.
“If you are competitive, you have scheduled training programmes,” he explained. “I like badminton so I want to increase my skills to more of a competitive level, instead of just hitting [the shuttlecock] around.”
In 2015, he began playing competitively. He was so good that two years later, he represented Singapore at the Asian Youth Para Games in Dubai.
But for this Nanyang Polytechnic graduate, there were limits to his aspirations. Beyond buying the usual sports equipment for badminton, he needed a special wheelchair.
“[The one I have] was more for basketball. The structure of the wheelchair is different which makes it not suitable for badminton”, Akram explained.
“If you move fast and suddenly break, you might fall over because of the weight. There were numerous times where I fell over while playing, so that’s why I decided to get a new wheelchair.”
A sports wheelchair for badminton would cost upward of $5,000, amounting to even $7,000 for a good one. It was money his family did not have.
This is the plight of many with disabilities. It is not the lack of ability nor ambition that stops them from living out their potential and fulfilling their dreams. It is the lack of finances and opportunities. At times like these, a helping hand can go a long way.
For Akram, that helping hand came from Mediacorp Enable Fund which sponsored a new wheelchair specifically designed for para-badminton players.
“It really helped to lift the burden off our shoulders and we didn’t have to worry about paying that amount of money,” said Akram, who is the second of three children.
“The new one is a bit lighter; you can move faster. Performance-wise I am able to focus more on the game.”
Now, Akram has plans to hit the big leagues and do Singapore proud.
“My goal with this new chair is to excel in my training and to one day participate in games such as Asean [Para] Games,” he said.