Volume 3 Issue 24 - December 15, 2005

Delegation of disability leaders calls on President of India on World Disability Day

D.N.I.S. News Network- A 10-member delegation of leaders representing disabilities across the spectrum met President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and briefed him on the ‘10-Demands’ Charter that the disability sector has prepared for seeking radical changes in the lives of millions of disabled people in the tenth year of The Disability Act 1995.

Picture of disability leaders delegation with the President

In the meeting which lasted for about 30 minutes, Javed Abidi, Disabled Rights Group Convenor who headed the delegation, introduced the President to the demands in the Charter. Abidi highlighted the main demand for creation of a separate Ministry for Disability Affairs as the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has failed to free itself from the shackles of the "charity-model" mindset. He also informed the President that if the political environment in the country was not ripe for such a progressive yet radical step, then the subject of disability must be reallocated to the Human Resource Development Ministry.

Following this, the delegates raised issues specific to their area of activity and sought the President’s attention to them. Arun Rao, who represented people with speech and hearing impairment, raised the issue of lack of standardisation of sign language in the country caused by inadequate research in the area. For this, he voiced the demand for listing sign language as one of the languages recognised by the Government of India. Ashwini Aggarwal, a blind person who is Honorary General Secratary with National Association of the Blind, discussed with the President need for standard rules to force the software sector in the country to create programmes that have access features built into them.

Asha Mehra, who represented parents of children with mental disabilities, highlighted the lack of job reservation for people with mental disabilities with the provision of three percent job reservation for disabled people.

Shankar Raman, Dr Narayanan, Srinivasulu and Manoj Aggarwal, people with disability who have been working relentlessly, drew the President's attention to the absence of full-time Disability Commissioners in most of the States in the country.

Members of the delegation also included Neetu Upadhyay working with National Disability Network Unit and Parvinder Singh working with Communication Unit of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People.

President Kalam not only displayed keen interest in the issues raised by the delegation, but also made specific suggestions about how these need to be addressed. Later the same day, at an official function at Vigyan Bhawan, Kalam urged the States to appoint full-time Disability Commissioners to ensure that the three per cent reservation for disabled people is strictly followed.

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