President Pratibha Patil on Friday emphasised need for a robust policy framework and an effective delivery system to help the differently-abled people realise their full potential. The Central and State governments must partner up with civil society and the private sector, in their endeavour to create an inclusive society.

Presenting the National Awards for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Patil praised the winners, including individuals and institutions, who had overcome the enormous odds posed by their disabilities, to excel in various fields.

World over, and in India, there was awareness that the issue of integrating differently-abled people into common society required focus. India was among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which came into force on May 3, 2008. “It demonstrates our resolve to move forward on the agenda of providing the differently-abled citizens of our country with an environment that enables them to participate in the various activities of society and the nation.”

The President pointed out that the requirements and concerns of the differently-abled should be fully reflected upon and hoped that the committee constituted to bring out legislation for differently-abled people would come up with a satisfactory and practical draft soon. The basic objective of the policies should be to make them self-reliant.

“Education must make the differently-abled strong enough, both mentally and physically, to face the world. It is, therefore, necessary that an appropriate teaching-learning environment and learning materials are provided in an accessible format. Teachers should be trained so that they can understand the needs of children with disabilities, and thereby teach and guide them properly. Teachers and society should become more sensitive and sympathetic towards disabled persons,” she said.

The President called for removal of physical barriers that impeded persons with disabilities from accessing various facilities and services. As a component of their right to education, school buildings should be made free from physical barriers for children with special needs. Simple aids and assistive implements such as hearing devices, limb prostheses, wheelchairs and Braille writing equipment helped them immensely in mobility, communication and daily living.

The full and effective participation of a person with disability in society, on an equal basis with others, could be helped by the behavioural attitudes they encountered when interacting in society. “We must treat them with dignity and full respect. The family, community and society in general, have an important role to play in ensuring the socio-psychological and emotional integration of persons with disabilities. It is necessary to correct the prevailing bias in society through sustained education and awareness campaigns. Civil society organisations and academic institutions should spearhead this movement.”

Ms. Patil said their opportunities for employment and self-employment were at present inadequate despite provisions for reservation in all government establishments. The backlog of reserved vacancies for persons with disabilities needed to be filled through concerted action by all government organisations. The private sector too must come forward to provide employment opportunities to persons with disabilities.

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