ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Friday underlined the need to adopt a well-thought-out, data-driven and time-bound comprehensive approach for the complete integration and mainstreaming of persons with disabilities (PWDs).
The step, he said, would ensure the empowerment of persons with disabilities enabling them to contribute to the progress and development of the country.
He said that PWDs should be proactively integrated into society as equal members by improving their mobility and accessibility to public facilities and providing them with education, skills, and jobs.
The president expressed these views during a briefing on the mobility and accessibility issues of Persons with Disabilities in Islamabad, at Aiwan-e-Sadr. Chief Commissioner Islamabad, representatives of Capital Development Authority (CDA), Federal Directorate of Education, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, WHO, Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, National Information Technology Board, Ministry of Housing and Works, Secretary Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority ICT (PEIRA), and senior official of the government attended the meeting.
Addressing the meeting, the president called for providing PWDs with Assistive Technologies (ATs) and creating jobs which correspond to and were suitable for persons with specific disabilities such as hearing, visual, physical or cognitive for their financial and economic empowerment.
The president highlighted that as per varying estimates, 10 to 15 percent of Pakistan’s population or almost 22 million people comprised of PWDs, and said that such a huge population could be transformed into a valuable asset, provided they were integrated and assimilated into the society.
He emphasized ensuring the proper upbringing of persons with disabilities from birth, meeting their specific needs of food, education, sports and learning, providing them with assistive technology, and assimilating them as equal members in daily tasks.
The president also called upon the relevant institutions in the public and private sectors as well as international organizations to join hands to review the existing laws while keeping in view the special needs of PWDs, and benchmark international best practices to propose amendments to the existing legal framework, besides proposing the enactment of new laws to establish a comprehensive PWD-friendly legal framework for ensuring their inclusion and integration in society as equal and capable members.
During the meeting, the President also stressed the importance of developing close linkages with institutes of higher learning, Capital Development Authority and Municipal Corporations of other cities, Chambers of Commerce and Industries across the country, and architecture firms to evolve a mutually agreed upon mechanism to transform public spaces into PWD friendly spaces.
The president said that relevant regulatory authorities should be fully geared to undertake a comprehensive and authentic audit of all public and private buildings, infrastructure, schools, and health facilities to create an authentic database to provide a baseline.
This, he said, would help in chalking out a comprehensive implementation strategy and action plans on a timeline basis to ensure the compliance of existing laws, rules and regulations by the stakeholders through consultation, negotiation and advocacy, and wherever required through administrative action to ensure compliance.
The president underscored the need to make all educational facilities in the country completely compliant with the needs of PWDs.
“They should have trained teachers capable of communicating with PWDs according to their disabilities and should be fully equipped with assistive tools and technologies to ensure their hassle-free movement to help them gain knowledge, and take part in sports and other social and cultural activities,” he added.
Dr Alvi said that all educational and training institutes should be encouraged to enroll PWDs, especially those with physical, visual or hearing disabilities without discrimination, and ensure availability of the trained teachers, a friendly environment, and remove physical and attitudinal barriers for their complete assimilation in the education system.
He said that steps should be taken to further expand the reach of our education and skill-development institutes to equip PWDs with suitable skills and develop a close and result-oriented liaison with public and private sector institutions for providing them with jobs.
He said that the entire month of December should be commemorated as the month of PWDs and all public and private sector institutions should organise events and launch awareness campaigns for their employees and the general public to sensitize them regarding the rights of PWDs and the responsibilities and obligations of society towards them.