Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pakistan works toward a barrier-free environment

Note: Due to time constraints on my part, I am quoting the article as is, which includes some problematic language.

From The News in Islamabad, Pakistan:

The Ministry for Social Welfare and Special Education is committed to provide an enabling environment that would allow full realisation of the potential of challenged persons through their inclusive mainstreaming.

This was stated by Director General, Directorate General of Special Education, Khaild Naeem while addressing at a national conference on ‘Disabilities’ here June 23 to educate people about design manuals, model projects and building bylaws for creation of a barrier-free environment for challenged persons.

Speaking on the occasion, Khalid Naeem said a National Plan of Action-2006 had already been launched to facilitate (access for) disabled persons. He said one of the major thrust areas of this plan was a disabled-friendly barrier free physical environment, which include physical access, transportation, communication and employment.

As a first step, the Director General said that five major cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar have been declared disabled-friendly cities and necessary modifications in the already constructed infrastructure are underway in collaboration with the CDA and Provincial/District governments.

“It is the right of the challenged people to have access to all public building, parks, transport and public places," Khalid Naeem said and added, "this will facilitate their mainstreaming and integration in the society to become productive and useful member of the society.”

He said these cities would cater to the needs of special persons with provision of ramps, resting areas, reserved car-parking and service desks in public buildings. He said that persons with disabilities have been allowed to appear in examination of Civil Superior Services, which will open avenues to enter in top level government hierarchy.

He said the Directorate General has also developed a Park for the disabled in the premises of the F-9 Park of Islamabad.He said inadequate infrastructure is a major cause for ill health and disabling conditions.

It is estimated that about 20 per cent to 25 per cent of disabled are thus affected by environments, products, technology and services that are not designed for all.

Khalid Naeem said women and girls with disabilities are facing multiple problems, adding, poverty and disability are also linked in a vicious downward spiral.

According to the World Bank, the proportion of disabled people is 20 per cent among the poor. In post-conflict countries the overall figure also exceeds 20 per cent, he added.

The rapid pace of urbanisation has also led to the concentration of a large number of disabled people into cities where the only means for living often is to engage in begging, he said.

Khalid Naeem said disabled people are seriously under-served by all basic services and only a few percent of disabled children have access to schooling.