200 speakers from 18 countries participate in the four-day conference

‘North South Dialogue IV– Implementing Tools of Change For Inclusion', one of the mega conferences on inclusive education for children with disabilities began here on Sunday.

The conference organised by 40-year–old ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together, formerly the Spastics Society of India) has brought together different stakeholders: grass-roots workers, professionals, academics, activists, corporate world and government representatives from 18 countries in an event that is expected to have a far-reaching impact on the lives of over 100 million people with disabilities that have been excluded by both governmental policy and society. The conference will continue till Thursday.

One of the key points that makes the conference special was that in the true spirit of inclusion, 22 per cent of the papers presented were from the people with disabilities and thereby becoming a living proof of disability evolving from a charity model to rights based.

Close to 200 speakers from 18 countries will be presenting papers at the conference over the next four days and exchanging ideas.

“It is time to get people with disabilities out of special schools and include them in society. It is time to think of the way forward and about how we can serve the rural and tribal population as well,” said Mithu Alur, Founder-Chairperson – ADAPT.

“They have faced a lot of barriers, mainly systemic – right from the top down where the Government has been doing institutionalised discrimination against disability with people with disabilities being out of everything they programme,” she said.

According to a data from a seminal report jointly prepared by World Bank and Ministry of Social Justice, over 80 per cent children with disabilities, around 70 to 80 million, in India are out of governmental programmes.

‘Universal'

“Disability is universal, cutting across barriers of nationality, gender, religion, and so on. And inclusion is the bedrock of a truly developed society. To achieve that we have to have both: top-down legislation and bottoms-up grassroots level work. ADAPT has aptly demonstrated how this can be done,” Frances Moore, honorary advisor of Women's Council from U.K., who is co-chairing the conference, said at the event.

Discrimination

However, a sombre note was struck by an incident that reflects the kind of discrimination that the people with disabilities had to face in the country.

Jeeja Ghosh, a disability activist from Kolkata who has a double MA including one from Leeds University, U.K., was unceremoniously asked to disembark from a SpiceJet Flight SG 803 coming form Kolkata as its captain refused to fly with her despite having a boarding pass.

Jeeja, who has cerebral palsy, was to present a paper on inclusion in Goa, disclosed organisers.

In the course of five-day conference, delegates from 22 countries will share ideas. The conference will focus on the difficulties of developing countries including Children With Disabilities (CWD) that is leaving millions of children out of schools. It is being supported by the Bank of America (BOA) and the State Bank of India (SBI). The first North South Dialogue was held in 2001 with the subsequent ones in 2003 and 2005.

People with disability who have done exceptional work were felicitated at the inaugural function. These included national award winner for her book on disability Malini Chib, Neenu Kelwani, Sunita Sancheti, Ketna Mehta, and Lucas Barretto.


  • 22 per cent of the papers are being presented by people with disabilities

  • Able Disabled All People Together is organising the conference


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