With a view to sensitise officials and other stakeholders on a gamut of disability issues, a zonal level awareness meet on the rights of persons with disabilities was held in Hailakandi on Friday.
Inaugurating the meet, Deputy Commissioner, Hailakandi, Keerthi Jalli called for bringing in inclusivity and creating an enabling environment for full and effective participation of persons with disabilities in the society at large.
Jalli said the right to equality of opportunity as enshrined in Article 19 of the constitution has to be equally ensured for persons with disabilities so that they can lead a life with dignity, equality and respect for his or her own integrity equally ‘as they are one amongst us’.
The Deputy Commissioner underscored the need to make the government buildings, roads, pavements and other structures ‘accessible and barrier-free’ for disabled and elderly persons so that they can live life independently without depending on others.
Giving a clarion call for inclusiveness, Jalli said, “Let us all do our bit albeit in a small and novel way to make life easier and hassle-free for disabled and elderly persons and take them along, thus paving the way for Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.”
Lauding the sensitisation drive by Shishu Sarothi, a Guwahati-based NGO, Jalli hoped that it would help to build awareness on disability-related issues, new laws and support for an inclusive and accessible environment for individuals with disabilities.
Speaking on the occasion, Additional Deputy Commissioner in charge of Social Welfare Department, Omar Sharief, said the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 that replaced the earlier Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 is more comprehensive encompassing every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life pertaining to the disabled persons. Sharief called upon all the officials of the key departments to be aware of their roles and responsibilities towards implementation of the Act and to work in tandem to ensure ‘persons with disabilities enjoy the rights to equality and opportunity, and respect for inherent dignity’.
Deputy Director, Advocacy, Shishu Sarothi, Amvalika Senapati while dwelling at length on the the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, said the new Act has 21 list of specified disabilities compared to the earlier Act which had listed only seven specified disabilities.
Senapati said that concerted efforts have to be made by the government in making infrastructure disabled-friendly and space standards for barrier-free built environment for disabled and elderly persons to enable them to have unhindered access.
Referring to Articles 45 of the Act, Senapati pointed out that all existing public buildings and spaces are to be rendered accessible to the disabled persons within a period of five years, including primary health centres, civil hospitals, schools, railway stations and bus stops. In the same breathe, quoting Section 44 of the Act, she said the concerned authorities should not grant building permission if it is not in conformity with the accessibility norms.
Senapati said the Act provides for inclusion of the private sector with regulatory framework, grant of benefits in employment and healthcare, legal capacity and access to justice, specific reference to women and children with disabilities, mandatory observance of accessibility norms, awareness creation and human resource development and equality and non-discrimination.
The day-long campaign saw mass awareness drive in each area discussing, analysing and understanding disability and the laws and support system available for the disabled.
Shishu Sarothi, which espouses for the rights of the disabled, has been entrusted with the task by the Government of Assam to create awareness on disability issues among government officials and various stakeholders across the state.
Earlier, District Social Welfare Officer, J. Daimary delivered the welcome address. Project Officer, Disability Law Unit, Shishu Sarothi, Puja Devi offered the vote of thanks.
Officials from different line departments of Hailakandi, Cachar and Karimganj districts and a number of stakeholders in the fields of disability took part in the zonal level meet.
The zonal meet was organised by the Social Welfare Department, Government of Assam in collaboration with the Hailakandi district administration and Shishu Sarothi.
Meanwhile, to bring in inclusivity and cater to the needs of persons with disabilities, Shishu Sarothi, was invited to give a presentation on challenges to Accessible India by the district administration on Wednesday.
Elaborate discussions were held on making infrastructure disabled-friendly under the Harmonised Guidelines and space standards for barrier-free built environment for persons with disabilities and elderly persons.
Besides the Deputy Commissioner, District Social Welfare Officer, BDOs, Executive Engineers, PWD (Building), PWD (Rural Roads), Junior Engineers from SSA and NHM and representatives from urban local bodies and Zilla Parishad were also present.