Parul Sharma is an International Accessibility Consultant, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, PhD candidate and a proud alumnus of ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.
As an Accessibility Consultant working in various cities across the globe, Parul's work is primarily concerned with improving the lives of persons with disabilities and older persons. He hopes to achieve this through leveraging his technical knowledge to help create accessible, safe and inclusive smart cities. His consulting and advocacy has taken him to the United Nations and established him as a consultant for the Asian Development Bank.
While Parul has attended and worked with many great institutions for further study and teaching, his time at ANU remains a great source of inspiration and pride. Having first landed in Canberra, it was difficult to not to realise the differences with his hometown of New Delhi, particularly when greeted by Canberra's freezing winds. This first encounter would leave an impression on Parul and would be the beginning of his Australian and ANU experience.
"I recall the first day when I landed in Canberra, Canberra was marked by blue skies and pleasing sunshine which fascinated me. I never experienced such a blue sky and vast open space back in my city New Delhi."
Parul would experience a dinner at Parliament House, a game of soccer and rugby, and a picturesque trip to Thredbo among many others. For Parul, the planned nature of Canberra that was fascinating, along with the multicultural and welcoming nature of Australian society.
"I love Canberra and am fascinated by its well-planned spaces with rich biodiversity."
Reflecting on this planned city would help Parul advocate for better accessibility outcomes in his future roles. ANU also gave Parul the intellectual framework and insight into the world of environmental sustainability.
"The degree I studied at ANU focussed on social, ecological and economic concepts and paradigms underpinning economic development and environmental degradation, and social inquiry."
From the social side, Parul gained substantial joy from being a resident of Burton and Garran Hall, recalling his time there fondly.
"The Burton and Garran Hall, living where I spent the best part of my [university] life. I feel the multicultural background of 650 students living in that hall makes them feel like an international family."
It would also not be an ANU College of Asia and the Pacific journey without some input of the great academics along the way. Parul recalled his current skills of networking and collaborating across the world as having its genesis in his Master of Environmental Management and Development classes.
Professor Chunlai Chen of ANU Crawford School of Public Policy would leave a lasting impression on Parul's career journey; teaching him the economic importance of international relations and networks.
Parul recalls, "I found the teachings of Professor Chunlai Chen also very interesting and it provided me an opportunity to learn more about the functioning of the World Trade Organisation and ILO, and maintaining relationships with various countries across the globe."
Parul's career journey has taken him to lead the Indian operations of World Enabled, an international accessibility education and consulting organisation. World Enabled works with companies and governments to fulfil their obligations for inclusion and diversity, it has also worked with organisations such as Microsoft to produce important research publications. Parul was inspired in this sector by his education at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and his time in Canberra, soon realising, "the urban spaces in Australia were designed, considering inclusive principles and needs for all sections of society."
Parul soon found himself advocating for improving the lives of persons with disabilities in India, joining as a consultant for the 'Accessible India Campaign'. Parul was responsible for advising on methods to accelerate efforts in building accessible, safe and inclusive smart cities. Now a final year PhD candidate at the School of Planning and Architecture in New Delhi, Parul is researching inclusive and accessible spaces throughout South Asia.
Considering his time at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and as a current PhD student of another university, Parul extends some valuable advice for students - encouraging them to make the most of opportunities to flourish.
"I would suggest prospective students to apply for various internships being offered at ANU to gain real time professional experience in the subject matter, to further nourish and enhance your personal and professional skills."