Annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was held on 3rd December all across the world. Disability Day, or the International Day of People with Disability, is a day that has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992. The aim of Disability Day is to encourage a better understanding of people affected by a disability, together with helping to make people more aware of the rights, dignity and welfare of disabled people, as well as raise awareness about the benefits of integrating disabled persons into every aspect of life, from economic, to political, to social and cultural. Disability Day is not concerned exclusively with either mental or physical disabilities, but rather encompasses all known disabilities, from Autism to Down syndrome to Multiple Sclerosis.
Building on many decades of UN’s work in the field of disability, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, has further advanced the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other international development frameworks. The 2030 Agenda pledges to “leave no one behind”. Persons with disabilities, as both beneficiaries and agents of change, can fast track the process towards inclusive and sustainable development and promote resilient society for all, including in the context of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian action, and urban development.
The theme for this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons is: “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all”. This theme notes the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities. Today, the world population is over seven billion people. More than one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability and 80 per cent of them live in developing countries.
The number of physically-challenged people across the world is nearly 100 crore. The United Nations has been observing the International Day of People with Disabilities since 1992. Responding to the UN call, Bangladesh has also been observing the day. The government has reserved one per cent quota for them in all grade I jobs, including BCS ones, while 10 per cent quota in the grade III and IV posts for the physically-challenged people and orphans, which has widened the opportunity for getting government jobs. International autism expert and daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Saima Wazed also undertook various steps for the rehabilitation of the countrywide physically- and mentally-challenged people.
According to the survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Welfare during the fiscal year 2011-2012, there are about 14,82,716 physically-challenged people in Bangladesh. The survey also identified 11 category of physically and mentally-challenged people in the country.
The government has already set up 103 service and help centres for the physically-challenged people across the country where they are getting therapy, other related materials, hearing test and counselling. The government has also taken an initiative to set up a national disability complex in the country with all amenities needed for the physically and mentally-challenged people.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, ratified by the government of Bangladesh in 2007, provides a reference for persons with disabilities to include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments, which, in interaction with various barriers, may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others. Persons with disabilities make up an estimated 15 per cent of the world’s population, 80 per cent of which reside in developing countries.
The International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a day to celebrate and acknowledge the experience and capabilities of people with disabilities, and also a chance for people and organisations across the world to focus on measures to support greater integration and equality for people with disabilities. It is estimated that around one billion people with disabilities all over the world face many barriers to participate in all affairs of the society. They do not have access to the services and opportunities provided by the state, such as employment, education, transportation, political participation and justice, on an equal basis with others. Shameful apathy of the state and society to the physically and mentally-challenged people is a big concern in the developing countries including Bangladesh.
Persons with disabilities, ‘the world’s largest minority’, have generally poor health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the lack of services available to them like information and communications technology (ICT), transportation and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives. These obstacles can take a variety of forms, including those relating to the physical environment, or those resulting from legislation or policy, or from societal attitudes or discrimination.
Disability is not abnormality. It is not a curse as some superstitious people think it to be. It is part of human diversity and they are differently able. People with disabilities can turn into worthy citizens provided they get help and support from the state and society and trained up as a productive force. Bangladesh Cricket Association for the Physically-Challenged in the Asian Physically-Challenged Cricket Tournament held in India won the three match T-20 series against India by 2-1 just a year back.
The physically-challenged boys and girls of the country also brought laurels for the nation from the Special Olympic Games for the disabled. Following the victory of our physically-challenged boys and girls, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, a separate sports complex for the physically-challenged people would be built in the capital so they can practice all types of sports and games there. She also said that such complex would be constructed in district and upazila-levels in phases.
The development of the country is not possible ignoring the ones afflicted by disability. The physically and mentally-challenged people will have to be brought into the mainstream population. Our disabled boys or girls who take part in examinations make newspaper headlines often. Some of them are seen writing with their legs, having no hands. Some are even seen writing answer scripts putting pens into their mouths. Sometime news paper carries pictorial reports on disabled persons, who are engaged in a grim struggle of survival on their own and are eking out a living notwithstanding their disabilities. This amply shows that there is no dearth of efforts on the part of disabled people to overcome their disability.
Admittedly, the government has taken some pragmatic measures for the welfare of the disabled. But more such measures can help the disabled to overcome their miseries greatly. The budgetary allocation for their education and rehabilitation is too insignificant compared to the scale and urgency of the task. Through proper education and rigorous training the disabled persons can be trained to become a skilled and productive force, as they are differently able for many types of work.
The writer is a columnist