TODAY, Dec 3, happens to be the International Day of Disabled Persons (IDPD 2021). The United Nations theme for this year is ‘Leadership and participation of persons with disabilities toward an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post-Covid world’.

All the five elements — leadership, inclusion, accessibility, sustainability and post-Covid world — are significant terms in today’s world, and the UN-led events, being held online internationally today – from New York to Japan via the Dubai Expo, are highlighting the challenges and inequalities faced by persons with disabilities, emphasising the importance of assistive technologies and sustainability in a post-Covid world.

But for me all this is gibberish. There can be no leadership of persons with disabilities unless they have a political voice and allotted spaces in parliament. There can be no inclusion when disability is seen as a stigma and schools do not accept children with disabilities. There can be no accessibility if the governments are not spending money on physical infrastructure, altered specifications of public transport, Braille signage, voice machines and assistive technologies. There can be no sustainability because there is nothing to sustain. And, things being what they are, what have we got to do with the post-Covid world, excuse me? The world with or without the virus is the same to us because we fell long ago through the cracks of this post-colonial, neoliberal, capitalist world.

Sadly, these terms, loaded as they are with unfulfilled promises of international and national institutions, agencies and civil society organisations, will continue to remain meaningless in the future as well, as they undermine the very spirit of life as a disabled person, with an inane ‘observance’ of the World Disability Day.

Rukhsana Shah
CEO, Autism Spectrum Disorder Welfare Trust
Lahore

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2021

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