WE observed the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Dec 3. To many it means nothing and it shouldn’t for we cannot overcome the challenges faced by people with disabilities in just one day.
We must take a look at how the day is observed in Pakistan. The NGOs ranted and raved outside the press clubs for hours along with disabled persons to get enough clicks for their photo gallery.
The media did not let go the opportunity for sensationalism and aired the plight of some disabled persons. A few doctors conducted symposia and got nods from the audience with many just there to show up physically without any zeal.
The government visited a few disabled persons to distribute some gifts and cash while the opposition politically exploited the opportunity to defame the government with themselves doing nothing. Many passed this day like an ordinary day.
Who says Pakistan does not support disabled persons. We do have legislation and policy such as Disabled Persons (Rehabilitation and Employment) Ordinance 1981, which is outdated, faulty and never implemented in true letter and in spirit.
One can also import duty-free cars for disabled persons, which is a cumbersome process only applicable for the elites, ignoring those belonging to various income groups.A close examination of the policy will disclose the ulterior motives of the ministry of commerce. We have the National Council for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons (NCRDP). I wonder if it is dormant or extinct?
We also have the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). It imposes legal obligations on state parties to promote and achieve across-the-board accessibility for people with disabilities.
Pakistan officially ratified the UNCRPD on June 6, 2011, but the commitment is yet to be visibly translated into action.
Progress in social welfare of a society can be gauged from how well physically and mentally impaired individuals are being put to productive relations.
Unfortunately, the people with disabilities are excluded from mainstream society. How often do you see a person with a disability around you? What is your reaction? How many of us refrain our children from befriending them? How many of us take them as a bad omen? How many of us believe they are punished by God?
The people with disabilities do not want sympathies. They want acceptance. They want attitudes, infrastructures and policies to support them. They are not disabled but they are made disabled by society.
December 3 in Pakistan should be observed but not for people with disabilities but to mark the disability of society and the government.
MARIA SHAH Assistant Project Coordinator Transparency International Pakistan Karachi