On International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Saturday, President Droupadi Murmu felicitated 52 such people for their laudable contributions in various fields and Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted his government has taken many initiatives to create opportunities for them so as to enable them to shine. Presenting the National Awards for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities for 2021 and 2022 at an event here, President Murmu stressed on the maximum use of technology to remove language-related barriers in education and to make education more accessible to children with disabilities.
Noting that more than two per cent of India's population are persons with disabilities, she said, "It is also our duty to ensure that they get a good education, stay safe in their homes and society, have the freedom to choose their career and have equal employment opportunities. In his message, Prime Minister Modi said, "I laud the fortitude and accomplishments of our Divyang sisters and brothers. our government has undertaken numerous initiatives which have created opportunities for persons with disabilities and enabled them to shine... Our Government is equally focused on accessibility, which is reflected in the flagship programmes and creation of next-gen infra.
I would also like to acknowledge all those working at the grassroots to bring a positive difference in the lives of persons with disabilities," he tweeted. International Day of Persons with Disabilities is observed on December 3 to raise people's awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities and mobilise political will and resources to address the challenges facing them.
In Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister M K Stalin announced an increase in pension for the differently-abled, including the visually challenged people, from Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 a month and said his government is committed to the welfare of all sections of people, particularly the marginalised. He also said the state-level experts and high-level committees are working towards providing a technology-based framework that would enable the differently-abled persons in government and private sectors to work independently without support.
"There is no necessity for the differently-abled persons to go to office to work. We are going to create an ambience that would facilitate working from home," he said at an event in Chennai marking the day.
He said it is the goal of the government to see that the differently-abled people should not face any difficulty. Not even a single person with disability should have any grievance and even if an initiative is going to benefit a single differently-abled person, it should be done, he said.
At the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, a special help desk was inaugurated on Saturday for serving passengers with disabilities. As several events were organised to mark the day, experts said accessibility remains a major challenge for the physically challenged in India, and called for urgent redressal as many buildings, even in tier 1 and 2 cities, remain unapproachable for them.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 provided a timeline of five years for making all existing public buildings accessible by June 14, but out of the total 2,839 buildings, 585 state buildings and 1,030 central government buildings have been made barrier-free for the disabled. Experts feel that including compliance related to disabled-friendly constructions while clearing building plans would be a significant step in addressing the accessibility issue.
At the awards ceremony in Delhi, the president said that according to an estimate of the United Nations, more than one billion people in the world are persons with disabilities. It means almost every 8th person in the world has a disability in some form or the other.
She said that in Indian culture and tradition, disability has never been considered as a hindrance in acquiring knowledge and achieving excellence. "Often, it has been seen that divyangjan are gifted with divine qualities. There are innumerable examples in which our divyang brothers and sisters have achieved impressive feats in many fields on the strength of their indomitable courage, talent and determination. Given enough opportunities and the right environment, they can excel in every field," she said.
She said education is key to the empowerment of every individual, including persons with disabilities. "We should make maximum use of technology in order to remove language related barriers in education and to make education more accessible to children with disabilities," she said. The president said the government is taking several steps for the empowerment of divyangjan.
She said inculcating self-confidence in divyangjan is very important to empower them. "People with disabilities have talents and abilities just like normal people, and sometimes more than them. To make them self-reliant, it is only necessary to instil in them self-confidence," she said.
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment gives away the National Awards for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities every year to individuals, institutions, organisations, state/district, etc. for their outstanding achievements and work done towards empowerment of persons with disabilities.
Sixty-six-year-old Mridu Ram Goel, an expert in access audit, was among the 52 individuals who were awarded by the president. Goel, who suffers from 81 per cent locomotor disability and is wheel-chairbound, has been raising issues related to the construction of ramps in government buildings in Lucknow. Vidhya Y, 29, another recipient of the award, was honoured by the president for, among other things, developing "the world's most affordable” electronic Braille book reading solution for children.
Vidhya, who is visually-impaired and has done her Msc in Digital Society, founded Vision Empower (VE) in 2017 which was incubated at the IIIT-Bangalore Innovation Centre. In 2020, she also co-founded ‘Vembi Technologies’ to design and manufacture assistive technology solutions to make education accessible and inclusive for visually-impaired students, according to her citation.
Among the awards was Pooja Ojha, who suffers from 80 per cent locomotor disability. A para-canoe sportsperson, Ojha has represented India in Thailand, Hungary, Japan, and Canada. Atul Jaiswal, 25, has 100 per cent hearing impairment since birth. He was conferred the award for his accomplishments in the field of sports.