WITH limited opportunities for their advancement, and difficulties in independently gaining access to private and public places, including universities and government departments, life is tough for people with disabilities in Pakistan. Even though there are laws pertaining to PWD rights including a job quota of up to 5pc in government departments and private entities, PWD still find it next to impossible to get employment and become independent, productive members of society. Recently, at a job fair in Karachi organised by an NGO, as many as 30 companies from multiple sectors, including textile mills and banks, engaged with potential recruits suffering from a number of physical and sensory impairments. A feature that made the event successful was the installation of ramps, tactile flooring and appropriate lighting that helped PWD independently navigate their way. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for most public places in the country including schools, universities, government departments, even corporate entities which lack proper access for the disabled. This reflects poorly on both our government’s attitude towards PWD whose needs are not factored into urban planning. Given that they encounter difficulties in simply gaining access to public and other places, is it any surprise that the job quota rules for PWD sees such little implementation?
Moreover, at the government level there are lapses in data collection with regard to the total number of PWD in the country. There are also structural flaws in the ICT Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2018, tabled by the human rights ministry last year that need to be addressed before the bill is enacted into law. However, no law can be fully implemented unless public spaces are made accessible to PWD, ending their exclusion from the societal sphere. For this, no new law is required, only a change of attitude. Both the government and society at large would do well to be more sensitive to the needs of PWD and recognise that many of them can work just as well if not better than those without disability.
Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2019