Empathy not sympathy emphasised on International Day for Persons with Disabilities

Published: December 3, 2016
Sohail Zindani - renowned motivational speaker and CEO Learning Minds group speaks at NOWPDP's Event. PHOTO: NOWPDP

Sohail Zindani - renowned motivational speaker and CEO Learning Minds group speaks at NOWPDP's Event. PHOTO: NOWPDP

SADDAR KARACHI: People with disabilities are often treated differently to the rest of the society, given sympathy and perceived as being incapable of doing everyday tasks. This perception needs to change.

An event to celebrate the ‘International day of Persons with Disabilities’ was held on Friday at the office of the Network of Organisations Working with People with Disabilities Pakistan (NOWPDP) in Karachi.

Busting myths about disability

Self-advocate for Autism Spectrum, Qazi Fazli Azeem, was one of the attendees along with Founder and CEO – Learning Minds Group and renowned motivational speaker Sohail Zindani, Salman Elahi, the Chairman of the Pakistan Blind Sports Federation and Television celebrity Dino.

Salman Elahi speaks during the event PHOTO: NOWPDP

Salman Elahi began the talk by discussing the challenges he had to face because of being visually impaired and how it has gotten him where he is.

No one left behind: Redefining ‘Dastoor’, empowering people with disabilities

He greatly attributed the role of his parents as integral in helping a child deal with a disability. “My parents often would drop pieces of puzzles from my hand and then wouldn’t help me look for it. Even if it took me half an hour, they would push me to find it myself.”

“The current perception we have that a blind man cannot achieve certain things needs to be defeated by interaction and hard work,” he concluded.

Qazi Fazli Azeem speaks at the session PHOTO: NOWPDP

Qazi Fazli Azeem, ‎ the only self-advocate in South Asia that promotes the awareness of Disability spoke about the core behavioural features of Autism. Being Autistic himself, Azeem went on to distinguish how Autism is not instantly recognised unlike other disabilities owing to its behavioural rather than physical nature.

He emphasised the importance of early intervention so that children who have been diagnosed earlier can receive the appropriate therapy. About 10 years ago, one in 500 kids was autistic or diagnosed with other neurological disorders, but currently, one in 50 kids is known to be autistic.

“The number of kids haven’t increased, it’s the awareness that has,” he said.

Amin Andani, External Engagement Manager for NOWPDP, spoke about the number of persons with disabilities not officially registered. “The total people with disabilities in Pakistan is equivalent to the combined population of Karachi and Islamabad as opposed to the official figure of 2%,” he told The Express Tribune.

Amin Andani, External Engagement Manager for NOWPDP, speaks at the session. PHOTO: NOWPDP

Motivational Speaker Sohail Zindani, was the last of the guest speakers to talk. He gave a more philosophical perspective highlighting how person with disabilities are more blessed than those without.


Zindani said we need to fix our lens on how we view things rather than altering everything else. It’s not the person with disabilities that are the anomalies in our society but rather our perception that is. He made the argument of how we all are simply different and needed to be perceived as such.

200 people with disabilities apply for special identity cards

While talking to The Express Tribune after the event, NOWPDP director Omair Ahmad spoke about how instead of Sympathy, his organisation promotes empathy as the core principle behind empowering persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Back in March, NOWPDP, in collaboration with Sindh social welfare department organised a Special Computerised National Identity Card (SCNIC) registration camp. More than 200 people with disabilities applied for their SCNICs at their office in Saddar.

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