How secure is the right of disabled person in Pakistan?
According to Human Rights Watch, people with disabilities (PWDs) in Pakistan are estimated to be 3.3 million to 27 million.
As a developed nation, Pakistan has always tried to address the problems faced by PWDs. In 1981, The Disabled Persons Employment and Rehabilitation Ordinance were put into order with the intent to accommodate people with disabilities by providing them with job quotas and giving them social and economic empowerment. It was a significant step taken to secure the rights of persons with disabilities in Pakistan.
In 2011, Pakistan ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, no dedicated legal framework enforced the rights of disabled persons in the country until 2020. The ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2020 was finally approved, which provided a legal framework for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and ensuring their equal access to opportunities and resources.
Challenges faced by persons with disabilities
Unfortunately, people with disabilities in Pakistan face many challenges and are often prone to exploitation and mistreatment. It could be challenging for them to speak for their rights, and they rely on human rights organizations and activists to speak on their behalf.
Education and development
Challenges in the educational and developmental stages of life, especially during the early years of life to maturity, can significantly affect the mental health of PWDs. Because of the negative mindset of people and social discrimination, the emotional well-being of people with disabilities is affected, and they may suffer from mental distress. A person with disabilities is also at higher risk of abuse and violence; consequently, their mental development is compromised.
Due to unhealthy development and lack of education, persons with disabilities rely on their family members for financial support and often stay home. This may also affect their mental health in many ways. Staying confined in their homes can cut out opportunities for social interaction, further hindering their social development.
Economic and Social
Although Pakistan has finally passed a law promoting the inclusivity of PWDs, they are often deprived of employment. Lack of job opportunities often leads to poverty, becoming a primary reason why disability and poverty are correlated in Pakistan. PWDs also have limited education, healthcare, social support, and justice access. It shows that implementing the rights of disabled persons to address the challenges of PWDs is not carried out effectively as expected.
Many people with disabilities can be a productive and integral part of the country and may even have more relevant skills than their peers. However, by being tagged as “disabled,” their advantageous skills are mostly overlooked, and they are deprived of job opportunities. PWDs, especially those in rural areas, are majorly ostracized from society because they are often considered a concern for family prestige due to stereotyping and the mentality of people.
What Pakistan can do to accommodate persons with disabilities
There is specific steps Pakistan can take to better support persons with disabilities and make the country more accessible for them. Although many commendable measures have been quoted by the 2020 Rights of Persons with Disability Act, they need to be physically implemented.
Considering the social discrimination persons with disabilities face, raising awareness and promoting the rights of disabled persons is the most crucial step the country should take. PWDs should be included in mainstream media, and the government and public bodies should provide opportunities for participation in various social events, social media platforms, news channels, etc.
If people with disabilities engage more with the community, the social barrier between them and their peers could be eliminated. The government and responsible organizations can educate the public on how to interact with people with disabilities and encourage their inclusion in society.
Providing accessibility is essential for making the country inclusive of PWDs. Easy mobility access offers a sense of independence, integration, and inclusivity. It will also have a positive impact on their mental and emotional well-being.
Providing accessibility for PWDs is not a demanding process. Initiatives to ensure that both governmental and public buildings have facilities for wheelchairs at their entrances are an excellent opportunity to show consideration and inclusivity. Commercial and residential buildings should have accessible entrances with ramps and lifts allocated for PWDs.
The government could provide public transport facilities for easy navigation of PWDs. It is the right of a disabled person to use public facilities like everyone else. Therefore, all civil facilities like public washrooms or building entrances with step-free access should be adapted so PWDs can easily use them.
All public and private schools should have facilities for PWDs. Teachers and staff at school should be trained to assist PWDs better. Schools should have resources for supporting PWDs and making classrooms and the environment more inclusive.
Moreover, the government can also take steps to facilitate PWDs in crossing roads and navigating by installing audio systems on traffic signals and buildings. Audio traffic signals can assist visually impaired people in crossing streets. Pavements could also have enough area for wheelchairs, and there should be curb ramps at different places so individuals can easily move wheelchairs from road to pavement.
It is time that we, as a community and as a nation, a step towards raising awareness for the rights of disabled persons in Pakistan. Every being deserves a life of equal opportunities, dignity, and independence. Let us work towards building a wholesome nation where we move forward together without leaving anyone behind.
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