International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Ensure inclusion of PwDs in decision-making process
Kohima, Dec. 3 (EMN): Nagaland State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), Diethono Nakhro on Friday said that real accessibility and inclusion of disabled people can be achieved only by actively consulting them and their organisations
Full participation of disabled people in the decision-making process must be ensured, she said while addressing the International Day of Persons with Disabilities programme held at Jotsoma
To promote inclusion of PwDs means recognising and protecting their rights as top priority. “These rights touch on every aspect of life: the right to go to school, to access healthcare, to start a family, to be able to participate in sport as well as other leisure activities, to engage in political participation and to have decent work or other income-generating opportunities and so on,” she said.
Now is the perfect opportunity to strategise and start building inclusively by ensuring that all the provisions in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 are implemented “strictly and quickly”, said Nakhro.
“Enough time has been given, enough excuses have been made. Non-compliance is no longer acceptable,” she added.
While urging the state government and the society to start looking at the issue of disability inclusion seriously, she said that “we cannot continue treating inclusion like a side issue which you practice or not as per your convenience even as a large chunk of our population is excluded and left behind”.
Impact of pandemic on PwDs
The world may have experienced self-isolation for the first time because of the Covid-19 pandemic but it is nothing new to the PwDs and the disease has affected them more than the others.
“People living with disabilities have been disproportionately impacted – by the disease itself as they faced greater risk of infection and death, and also by the restrictions and lockdowns imposed to control the virus which caused severe disruptions in healthcare, education, loss of livelihood, food insecurity, and inability to access various other essential services,” the commissioner pointed out.
“The pandemic is deepening pre-existing inequalities and exposing the extent of exclusion of people who live with disabilities. There can be no doubt that the ongoing pandemic is widening gaps, creating further disadvantage and increasing vulnerability for many disabled people,” she added.
‘However, the pandemic also provides a unique opportunity to reimaging disability inclusion and build it. As we emerge into a post-Covid 19 world and chart a course forward, the matter needs to be systematically addressed with concrete and targeted measures. As this year’s theme: Leadership and Participation of Persons with Disabilities is crucial here,’ Nakhro continued.
PwDs are sidelined
Sharing his experience, Ngaugonbe said that disability is something that has been there since time immemorial but the society had failed to recognise the reality and choose to sideline the PwDs.
‘When I motivate myself to do something, with the confidence that I can do it, I have been excluded in schools and churches because of my disabilities,’ he shared while recounting discrimination he had faced in the public places, like being denied the opportunity to showcase his skills and abilities.
“I have been part of the society but I have not been part of the society,” he said.
If given a chance, he said, he has the potential to do what others are doing though he might need a little more time because of his disabilities.
Pleading the society to give PwDs the opportunities, he said they also want to live an independent life, go out and experience the world and have a bright future.
Christine Iralu, a homemaker based in Zubza, said the day was to celebrate those who, in spite of the hurdles and challenges, broke through to living fruitful lives. But one also should think of those who need support, encouragement and help to overcome the obstacles and difficulties they go through, she added.
She observed that Covid-19 has shown the world how fragile life is. ‘This can be a time for reflection and understanding, where people learn from their mistakes. Covid-19 is reminding that all are equal- regardless of culture, religion, occupation, financial status. The disease treats everyone equally and we should too,’ she shared.
Commissioner and Secretary of Social Welfare, Sarah Ritse said that PwDs were neglected for so long even in the state.
It was never intentional but due to lack of adequate knowledge and awareness, she said while adding that the state government has taken various measures towards addressing their issues. The Social Welfare department is ever ready to extend help and addressthe grievances of the PwDs, she assured.
29631 PwDs in Nagaland
The joint study conducted by the office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in collaboration with the North East Institute of Social Sciences and Research (NEISSR) showed that there are 29,631 PwDs in the state.
Out of this, 4151 are visually impaired, 8940 hearing impaired, 2294 with speech disorder, 3828 with movement disability, 1250 with intellectual disability, 995 have mental illness, 3336 have multiple disability, and 4838 in the ‘others’ category.
Visiting faculty at NEISSR, Dimapur, Dr. Deben Bachaspatimayum informed during the presentation of the study that literacy among the sample population of 506 PwD participants across the 12 districts of the state was carried out. It was found out that 41% is literate (43% male and 57% female) and 59% illiterate.
Education and employment status among literate PwDs showed that 30% is unemployed, 21% employed, 20% self employed and 29% are still studying.
An awareness video titled ‘Different is cool’ and an IEC pamphlet were also released during the occasion.