Interview

Volume 3 Issue 8 - April 15, 2005

“Disabled persons must project their issues to their governments”

There is nothing better than self-advocacy, says Venus M. Ilagan, Chairperson, Disabled Peoples’ International (D.P.I.), in an interview with Arman Ali and Vijay Krishnamani.

Picture of Venus M. Ilagan, Chairperson of D.P.I.

What is D.P.I.?

D.P.I. (Disabled Peoples’ International) is a world federation of 135 national organisations of persons with disabilities.

What is the role of the D.P.I. in the Asia-Pacific Region?

It is a Disability Rights organisation. It advocates for the human rights of disabled people and also provides opportunities for exposure and training to develop their capacities, [thus enabling them] to advocate for their issues and concerns.

Where do you see India in all this?

India is one of the biggest countries [in the world]. It should play a bigger role in advancing the cause of disabled persons in the region. India has some good leaders and should play an important role in the efforts of disability communities in this part of the world.

People get a feeling that D.P.I. is dominated by East Asia and that the other countries, especially those in South Asia, are not being represented enough. Why is this so?

I don’t think it’s fair to say so! The reason East Asian countries are perhaps more visible is because they have developed first and some of the pioneer leaders in the region have come from them.

Disability is not listed in the Millennium Development Goals (M.D.G.). What has D.P.I. done about it?

D.P.I. is not the only one taking action on this issue. There are other organisations in Asia-Pacific which are also working on this. D.P.I. is training leaders to advocate for this cause in their own regions/countries. Disabled persons must be pro-active to ensure that they project their issues to their governments. There is nothing better than self-advocacy.

As a woman, do you feel that D.P.I. has been able to intervene in the issues related to women with disabilities?

To some extent, yes. D.P.I. has been inclusive of women with disabilities in its work at the global level. For example, we have a Women’s Committee in the World Council. In addition, Asia Pacific has produced the first woman chairperson of the organisation, that is, me at the regional level.

All the U.N. agencies (U.N.I.C.E.F., U.N.E.S.C.O., U.N.D.P.) are not doing much about disability. Why?

It is not fair to say that they are not doing anything. They are doing something but not to the level that we expect them to do for us. For example, U.N.E.S.C.O. is doing something for children with disability but it is not at par with what we expect. They have to do more to make education accessible to children and youth with disabilities. Not even 3% of disabled children have access to schools. D.P.I. has been very actively participating with all the U.N. agencies, with the I.L.O. We are also working very closely with the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

What is D.P.I. doing to sensitise U.N. agencies? By when do you expect the U.N. agencies to include disability firmly on their agenda?

They should act now. They do include (disability in their programmes) but it’s not enough. With the U.N. Convention for the Rights of persons with disabilities expected to be signed next year, things will change -- hopefully.

When do you expect the U.N. Convention for the Rights of Persons with Disability to be ready?

Maybe next year. But the real work will begin only when the countries ratify the Convention. The signing of the treaty is the easier part.

What role is India playing in the preparation of the draft of the U.N. Convention? What more can India do and what are your expectations?

India has been a regular attendee of the sessions of the Ad-hoc Committee for U.N. Convention but it has not included any disabled person in the delegation. India should send disabled people as a part of its delegation.

What is your message for India?

India must play a more active role in disability affairs. India is a front-runner in terms of information technology (I.T.). I hope its IT [skills] would help to [advance the cause of] disabled people [globally].

Arman Ali is orthopaedically disabled and Vijay Krishnamani is hearing impaired. Both are young, emerging disabled leaders of D.P.I.-India. They attended the 9th Regional Assembly of D.P.I. in Bangkok, (Thailand) from 10 to 14 April, 2005.

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