A large number of disabled people organised a rally in the city on Saturday to highlight their problems. A walk was convened by the Leo Foundation in Multan at Nawan Shehr Chowk and over 270 people suffering from various disabilities participated in the event.
Dozens of NGO activists also accompanied the procession. “This is a peace walk and we want to spread a message of peace for Pakistan as well as highlight the concerns of the disabled community,” said NGO worker Shammon Ahmad. “We hope the city government will take note of our concerns and address some of these problems as soon as possible,” he added.
“I cannot walk and there are no ramps or places in the bus for me to sit,” said paraplegic Talha Samad. “I usually need to ask someone at the bus stand to help me up fold my wheelchair and carry me to the seat. Sometimes people even refuse to give me a seat,” he added.
“The tehsil and district administrations need to ensure wheelchair access on public transport. We don’t even have these facilities in railway stations,” he added.
A blind woman Asma Bibi, 19, said that she had only managed to study in public school because her sister sat with her in class and copied her notes.
“I couldn’t even afford to learn or buy a brail set and there are no provisions made for blind or deaf students to sit exams separately,” she said. ‘People like us have something to offer and we are determined but the government needs to support us,” she added.
“These people are an integral part of our community and it is the government’s duty to ensure that there lives are made easier rather than harder. Yet, there are very little provisions made for disabled people with regards to transport, health or education,” said NGO worker Naeem Zahid.
“There are several philanthropists working with such people to help rehabilitate them but it will be impossible to do so effectively without the government’s help. The authorities need to make it possible for a disabled person to commute and function independently,” he added.
The protesters said that the problems of the country affected every community and that members of the disabled community were not exempt from these concerns. “We want peace and progress as much as any other Pakistani and we need the government to ensure our rights,” said deaf man Raza Hammad.
“There need to be proper facilities for people like us to help us communicate better and the government needs to provide more jobs for the disabled community,” he said. President Leo Foundation Sajid Jameel said that he hoped the government would begin to fulfill its duties towards members of the disabled community. “We can no longer turn a blind eye and let them fade away into the background. The government needs to ensure that their talent is put to use,” he said. APP
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31th, 2011.