Equal opportunity: Disability rights advocates demand policy reform

Current laws and policies restrict rather than facilitate disabled people.

Shamsul Islam June 16, 2013
Current laws and policies restrict rather than facilitate disabled people. PHOTO: FILE


Comprehensive legislation must be introduced to protect rights of the disabled because existing legislation and policies do not cater to their needs and challenges, a group of disability rights advocates told a press conference here.

The conference was held under the aegis of the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) and the Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) in collaboration with the Society of Disabled People for Rights and Development (SDPRD) and the Beacon Foundation for Visually Challenged People (BFVP).

AWAM Executive Secretary Naseem Anthony, CBID Coordinator Asim Zafar, HEERA Advocate Director Omer Pervaiz, AWAM Coordinator Shazia George, BFVP Director Rana Yasir, SDPRD Director Sajid Ali and HOPE Director Asma Naz were among the panellists.

They said the media highlight the plight of persons with disabilities and create awareness about how government policies were not helping them.

The participants stressed the importance of using proper terminology while addressing issues pertaining to disabled people.

They said the government must draft comprehensive, unequivocal and detailed legislation to provide such people guarantees in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This would protect disabled persons from neglect, abuse and exploitation. The government must revise strategies, policies and legislation to bring them in conformity with international standards, they said.

They suggested that the government set up an independent commission to oversee the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD). They also demanded ratification of the convention’s optional protocols to provide a better environment for persons with disabilities.

They also recommended that the government establish a separate ministry that would cater to their needs and improve their standing in society. They proposed increases in the quotas for the disabled people for admission in educational institutes and for employment. They said the quotas should be strictly enforced. Keeping in view their limited mobility, the process of disability registration should be made easier, they said. They also asked for better coordination among Social Welfare, Labour and Health Departments. “The Social Welfare Department must issue the same type of disability certificates to all disabled people rather than have different formats for each district,” they said, “This would make them valid in parts of the country.”

“Keeping in view our cultural norms, a lady doctor should complete the initial assessment for women with disabilities,” they said.

The government must create an environment that would ensure easy access to public transportation, buildings and places for people with disabilities.

All policies should be based on universally accepted disability standards. They should lead to a removal of barriers that prevent disabled people from participating in various activities. The government should also include organisations working for the rights of disabled in meetings to draft policies and make decisions regarding persons with disabilities, they said.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2013.


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