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Opinion

December 4, 2017

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A matter of inclusion

Since 1992, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) has been commemorated on December 3 to protect and promote the rights and wellbeing of people with disabilities in all spheres of society and development and increase awareness in this regard in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural sphere. The theme for 2017’s IDPD is a “transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”.
After working for decades on the rights of people with disabilities, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2006, which subsequently came into force on May 3, 2008. The CRPD has, so far, been ratified by 175 member states. Pakistan signed the CRPD on September 2008 and ratified it on July 5, 2011.
In addition to a cluster of important rights, the CRPD enshrines principles that accord respect for the inherent dignity and individual autonomy of people with disabilities, seek to protect them from discrimination and encourage their effective participation and inclusion within society. The convention builds on the idea of respecting the differences of people with disabilities. It calls for the equality of opportunities and respect for the evolving capacities of children with disabilities and respect for the right to preserve their identities.
According to the World Health Organization, “any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being is [considered to be a] disability”. And approximately 15 percent of the world population is facing mild, moderate or severe forms of disability. This includes 93 million children. According to Sparc, the estimated population of people with disabilities in Pakistan is 5.035 million. And due to limited facilities of schools for people with disabilities in Pakistan, most differently-abled children have no access to learning.
Such schools are also

deficient in advanced and modern teaching technologies, which create countless difficulties. We are in the seventh year of the ratification of the CRPD. However, education for people with disabilities hasn’t been made a priority by the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to the experts and activists working on the rights of people with disabilities, discriminatory and abusive language continues to be used against children who are differently-abled. The sexual abuse of children with disabilities poses a major challenge in our country.
Pakistan has failed to provide tangible economic opportunities for people with disabilities. This has pushed many of them into a position of disadvantage. There is a dearth of trained teachers who are mostly selected on the basis nepotism and favouritism. The lack of vocational and technical training, expensive and unaffordable equipment, limited means for attending to the needs of students with multiple disabilties and the weak monitoring of educational institutions are the key challenges for students with disabilities in the country.
As a signatory to the CRPD, Pakistan is bound to take a series of appropriate legislative, administrative, social, educational and other appropriate measures to protect people with disabilities from all forms of exploitation, violence, torture or cruel inhuman degradation. Steps must also be taken to ensure their freedom of expression and accord them privacy and access to information. It is our national and international responsibility to adopt suitable legislative and administrative measures for the implementation of a whole range of rights for people with disabilities. The government of Pakistan must modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against people with disabilities.
In light of their vulnerable status, Pakistan should promote research and development for universally-designed goods, services, equipment and facilities for people with disabilities. These should require minimum adaptation and be available at the least cost to meet the specific needs of people with disabilities. The federal and provincial governments should promote the availability and use of new technologies, including information and communications technologies, mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies that are suitable for people with disabilities.
We should also provide information to people about mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies, including new technologies as well as other forms of assistance. For this, the federal and provincial governments should take measures by utilising its available resources and making suitable budgetary allocations.
In the development and implementation of legislation and policies and in other decision-making processes pertaining to these issues, Pakistan should consult and actively engage people with disabilities. Government should ensure the proper implementation of a quota for people with disabilities and provide vocational and technical training. Pakistan should honour its international obligation under the CPRD. A series of initiatives are required for the children with disabilities. These include increasing the number of school and providing vocational training.
The government should raise awareness at all levels to ensure that respect is accorded to the rights of people with disabilities stereotypes and harmful practices against them are done away with. There is need to recognise the skills, merits and abilities of people with disabilities and their contributions to the workplace and the labour market. The education system needs to be promoted for children with disabilities. Appropriate measures should be adopted to ensure people with disabilities are with others.

The writer is a Peshawar-based lawyer.
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: s_irshadahmad

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