LAHORE: Special Olympics Pakistan Vice Chairman Aneesur Rehman said that currently as many as 38, 000 athletes were playing under their banner and had participated in six world championships.
He added that some schools in Pakistan were also affiliated with the organisation.
He was speaking at a seminar organised by Hope Rehabilitation Society in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Lahore Garrison at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday.
More than 15% of the world’s population consists of people with disabilities, said Project Director at Special Education and Training Centre, Dr Khalida Tareen.
Attended by a large number of prosthetic specialists, speech therapists and other experts from Lahore, the seminar was organised to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is December 3. This year’s theme, ‘Together for a Better World for All’ calls for including people with disabilities in development processes to make them useful members of society.
Dr Tareen said that physical, speech and hearing disabilities are the most common but the term ‘disability’ now has a broader definition. “People with cognitive and emotional disabilities are now also recognised as people with disabilities”, she added.
Head of Department of Developmental Pediatrics at the Children Hospital and Institute of Child Health, Dr Shazia Maqbool explained that developmental delay refers to individuals whose skills are not developing in accordance with the expected time frame.
Dr Maqbool said that in cases of early detection of ‘mild developmental delays’, there were 50% chances of incorporating these children both in learning and playing with others. She said that this year as many as 30, 000 people with disabilities were provided medical care at the Children Hospital in Lahore.
“Everyone stresses on immunisation, maternal and infant health care but disabilities are often ignored”, she said.
Dr Khalid Niazi from the Hope Rehabilitation Society said that people with disabilities do not want to be labelled as ‘special’ or ‘disabled’. He added that dignity and respect can help these people better integrate in the society. Hope has been working since 1989 to provide people with disabilities with artificial limbs, physiotherapy and rehabilitation.
“Considering almost 15% of the world’s population consists of persons with disabilities, all educational institutes should work towards providing these individuals with the chance to lead a normal life”, he said.
Irfan Anwar, head coach of the Special Olympics Pakistan said it was unfortunate that these individuals were only recognised during such events. He added that although the government awarded monetary gifts to the successful athletes, there remained the need for substantial steps to ensure their welfare in the long run. “These children are rarely provided with opportunities in their lives”, he said.
Dr Tareen who has vast experience in child psychiatry, said there was a need to integrate people with disabilities into the society.
“The stigma attached to them must be removed and they should be treated as valuable members of the society”, she said.
The Pakistani Special Olympic Games team, which won 58 medals at the International Special Olympic Games in Athens this year, was also present at the seminar.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2011.