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‘We don’t need to sympathise with disabled people, we need to facilitate them’

March 30, 2019
 

Photo: AFP

Imagine having to spend your life in constant fear of being neglected and thinking twice about going out for a meal, to the park or crossing the street. 

Every day is a challenge for people with disabilities but not because of their physical or mental conditions, but society’s inability to serve their needs. “It is our responsibility as human beings to be a part of this process,” said Khalid Sherwani, associate community outreach at NOWPDP. He said a country is judged by how well it works in the interests of its minorities.

“We think ‘disability’ is a problem but we should say it is a miracle of God,” said Salman Elahi, a PhD holder from Karachi University who is visually impaired. “Majority of people don’t leave their house out of fear and the problems they face,” he said.

“People should be aware that we don’t have to sympathise with disabled people. We have to facilitate them,” said Zahid Farooq of the Urban Resource Centre.

Related: Supreme Court comes down hard on government for inaction in disabled persons job quota case

Shehri-CBE project manager Farhan Anwar explained how we can facilitate them by making our streets as well as public and institutional spaces accessible for people with special needs. “We need to make our environment accessible for people with special needs,” he said at a workshop on ‘Engaging Government Officials on Addressing the Needs of Disabled Communities – Strategy for Ensuring Universal Access in Urban Mobility’ in Karachi on Thursday.

He suggested a number of ways that design could cater to the needs of people with special needs:

  • Entryway ramps should be installed in every building so that people with wheelchairs can easily move.
  • Braille can be used in restaurant menus and on signboards for the visually impaired.
  • Public transport should be designed in a way to facilitate the elderly, pregnant woman and people with disabilities.
  • Tactile tiles should be installed on floors to help the visually impaired move around.
  • Basic sign language should be taught at educational institutes.
  • Most importantly, restaurant managers, hospital staff and supermarket workers should learn sign language so that they can communicate with the disabled.

Related: The Pakistanis with fake legs and real courage

According to a 2000 UN report 15% of the world’s population have disabilities. “That number has increased over the years, due to the [situation in] Afghanistan and Syria,” Shehri-CBE executive member Amra Javed said.

The Sindh Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2018 ensures the right to privacy, ease of access and mobility, protection from torture and inhumane treatment and freedom from exploitation for people with special needs.

In Section 3.2 of the act, roads and streets, open spaces, public parks, residential apartments, hotels/motels/inns, commercial buildings, hospital, marriage halls and religious buildings should be made accessible for people with disabilities.

“If the 2018 law is implemented, we could see a lot of improvement in Sindh, as the law is quite comprehensive,” Anwar said.

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