Feature

Volume 3 Issue 24 - December 15, 2005

Celebrating World Disability Day with the “Walk to Freedom”

World Disability Day has traditionally been celebrated at India Gate to highlight and draw the attention of policy makers to the issues facing disabled people in India. This year too, thousands of people from across the country participated in the World Disability Day celebrations organised by National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People in association with many national and international organisations, says Chitra S. Shankar.

Picture of Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit at WDD celeberations

Over the years, World Disability Day (W.D.D.) has witnessed the steady ‘coming together’ of different disability groups, N.G.O.s, school children, disabled people, their families and friends; as well as increasing support from other key sectors of society. This year too, on December 3, participants came from far off places such as Meghalaya, Jammu & Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. National Disability Network Partners from various States had responded overwhelmingly and the total number of registrations from outside Delhi was over a thousand.

The event started with a cultural show. There were a series of performances cutting across lines of disabled and non disabled persons – thus bringing together adult as well as child artistes from various walks of life. The programme highlights were a play by Barry John’s Imago, songs from Benzy, Bethany Society, A.A.D.I. & Fr. Agnel School, dances from The Deaf Way and Blind Relief Association. This was followed by the ninth ‘Walk to Freedom’ symbolising the strength of the movement for rights of disabled people.

Picture of cultural presentation at WDD celeberations

Chief Minister of Delhi Sheila Dikshit was the Guest of Honour. She inaugurated the event by releasing yellow and blue balloons in traditional fashion. On this occasion Javed Abidi, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People issued a Statement.

Later, under the leadership of Javed Abidi, National Disability Network Partners from various parts of the country called upon the President of India and presented a memorandum of ‘demands’ that need urgent attention of the Government. This is the tenth year of The Disability Act. The passage of this law was a result of the efforts of disability activists and disability movement in the mid-1990s. Therefore, the chosen theme was “The tenth year of the Disability Act – It’s time for ACT10N’. The idea was to evoke introspection and awareness among the public and all key stakeholders about the non-implementation of The Disability Act, 1995. As part of this campaign, the disability sector created a logo and put together a document of ‘10 Demands’ , which was presented to the President for immediate Government action.

The Solidarity Campaign was also organised on the same day to increase public awareness on disability issues. Solidarity Booths were set up at India Gate, the venue for the Walk to Freedom. Visitors to the booths were asked to sign a pledge to show their solidarity with disabled people and were given a yellow and blue ribbon to wear. The campaign was a great success – hundreds of pledges were signed.

On December 2, the eve of W.D.D., the prestigious N.C.P.E.D.P. - Shell Helen Keller Awards were given away. Arjun Singh, Human Resource Development Minister of India, was the Chief Guest at the awards ceremony held at the Federation House. The winners of this year’s Awards include six individuals and four organisations.

Picture of NCPEDP Shell Helen Keller Awardee

W.D.D. was celebrated across India with the same fervour and theme in each and every State and District of the country.

In Delhi, National Legal Services Authority organised National Legal Aid Week for People with Disabilities. The target audience included judges, lawyers and people from legal community. National Federation for the Blind celebrated the day with a protest at Jantar Mantar against Government’s apathy in implementing the provisions of the Disability Act 1995.

Action for Abilities Development and Inclusion in association with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry organised a two-day Career Forum in which more than 100 industries and corporates participated. ActionAid India organised a one-day seminar on De-custodial Mental Health Care Services in India for People with Psychiatric Disability. The city also witnessed a Disability Film Festival Week and a three-day painting exhibition by artistes with hearing impairment.

In Kashmir, Humanity Welfare Helpline submitted a memorandum to the Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University, a copy of which was also sent to the Governor of Jammu & Kashmir. It addressed issues such as making the campus barrier-free, providing special financial assistance to disabled students, and other such important issues. A Solidarity Campaign was also organised on the same day and a large number of people signed the pledge forms.

In Jalandhar, Dr. Satya Paul Khosla Charitable Memorial Trust held a rally-cum-sports meet for disabled students from five different schools. The parent of these children too participated in the rally. The Chief Guest of the occasion was Dr. S.P. Sharma, Civil Surgeon, Jalandhar.

The District Disabled Association in Nuapada, Orissa submitted a Charter of Demand to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Their demands included the appointment of a separate Disability Commissioner for Orissa, distribution of Disability certificates to disabled people through Medical Certification Camps at the Block Level, reservation of three per cent jobs in government and private sector employment as well as three per cent seats in Panchayati Raj to parliamentary election process, to people with disabilities, and other relevant issues.

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