We almost finalized the design of an academic building in university, with teaching classes and lab and submitted in higher education commission for final approval. But the design was returned with the note “make it special people facilitating”. This was for the first time, we started thinking about the issues and options of special persons as they are equal partners of this eco-system and have rights of their type.

We called the consultant and the whole design was changed and we finally got approval. Those nations who take care of the distressed segments of their society can reap the dividends by helping them play their due role in uplifting their country’s economy.

Unfortunately, the case is quite different in Pakistan. Here, disabled persons must face multiple challenges throughout their lives. From getting a good job to receiving medical treatment; from accessing public transport to getting higher education, people with certain disabilities must go through many social barriers in Pakistan.

Recently, this issue was raised by the Department of Special Education at the Arts Auditorium, University of Karachi (KU) and the findings of the seminar are eye-opening. We are a kind of country, where, human rights are lest considered. Whereas, in an advanced world, everyone gets due rights and that is the beauty of those societies.

A “special” person is someone with only good intentions, no matter what they do (or don’t), or even if they express themselves in “their” way, no one is offended or hurt (emotionally or physically) while they are around. Previously called disabled, they now enjoy relatively a sober title “Special Person” but in most of the countries up to documentation, while practically they are as they were and if help does not come from heavens, their fate remains the same.

In the western world, practically their rights are not only determined, but they are also given excess to, while in a country like Pakistan, there is dire need to educate masses to recognize their rights. Theoretically, persons with visual impairment are exempted from admission and tuition fee in universities, 5% Employment Quota is reserved for persons with Disabilities, Custom Relaxations on Locally Assembled Automatic Cars. Financial Assistance per Annum for Families with Children with Disabilities and Assistive Devices Provided Free of Cost.

Unfortunately, most of the persons with disabilities have been unaware of the benefits and facilities provided to them by the State through the Constitution. However, to avail of these benefits, a person with a disability should have, An Employment Exchange Card (Sindh Only), Disability Certificate (applicable to all provinces), Special CNIC (applicable to all provinces).

Special persons are entitled to following

1. As per HEC guidelines, persons with visual impairment are exempted from admission and tuition fee in universities. With education constitutionally free from the age of 5-16 for children, persons with disabilities can seek education from special education centers.

2. 5% Employment Quota for Persons with Disabilities is mandatory; therefore, companies must hire at least 5% of persons with disabilities if their workforce is over 100 people (Applicable to Sindh).

3. 50% Discount on Air and Railway Fare for Persons with Visual Impairment is allowed only by showing a copy of a certificate indicating you are bona fide blind duly certified by a Civil Surgeon with a required seal of authority.

4. There are Custom Relaxations on Locally Assembled Automatic Cars. Special persons are also entitled to Duty exemption on locally assembled automatic cars not more than a 1300 cc car if you are an Income Tax Payee with a disability.

5. Special persons are entitled to free medical treatment in Federally Governed Hospitals when need be. 6. Special persons also enjoy financial assistance per annum for families with children with disabilities. A family can get Rs 25000 per annum if it has two or more children with disabilities from Pakistan Bait ul Maal. by showing CNIC, and a picture showing a person’s disability and a disability certificate.

“Today, there are at least 650 million persons with disabilities around the world, of which 400 million live in and around the Asia Pacific region. Around 70 million people in the world need a wheelchair of which 5% to 15% have access to one, while 360 million people have moderate to profound hearing loss”.

7. Special persons can get assistive devices like wheelchairs, white canes and hearing aid from Bait ul Maal free of cost may be achieved by showing the same requirements as for financial assistance.

Theoretically, this is all wonderful, but the problem is that there has been very little or no awareness among special persons. Therefore, the government must use print and electronic media for mass awareness, and special bodies may be framed aimed at the collection of data in this regard.

Some people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) have communication difficulties. People with intellectual disabilities or those whose disabilities directly affect speech, hearing, or sight are more likely to have communication difficulties.

According to the United Nations, to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure to persons with disabilities access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transportation, to information and communications, including information and communications technologies and systems, and other facilities and services open or provided to the public, both in urban and in rural areas. These measures, which shall include the identification and elimination of obstacles and barriers to accessibility, shall apply to, buildings, roads, transportation, and other indoor and outdoor facilities, including schools, housing, medical facilities, and workplaces.

States Parties shall also take appropriate measures to develop, promulgate and monitor the implementation of minimum standards and guidelines for the accessibility of facilities and services open or provided to the public and ensure those private entities that offer facilities and services which are open or provided to the public take into account all aspects of accessibility for persons with disabilities, to provide training for stakeholders on accessibility issues facing persons with disabilities, to provide in buildings and other facilities open to the public signage in Braille and in easy to read and understand forms Besides, access for persons with disabilities to new information and communications technologies and systems, including the Internet must be taken care of to promote the design, development, production and distribution of accessible information and communications technologies and systems at an early stage, so that these technologies and systems become accessible at minimum cost.

The biggest problem that persons with disabilities face in Pakistan is that the social environment and the people’s culture are mostly hostile to them. Many persons’ disabilities are aggravated by society’s attitude towards them. Governments only have paperwork for face-saving, whereas practically nothing exists.

You watch news bulletin in Arab states, you would always find the facility of a moderator, who are experts and do a great job. Here in Pakistan, nearly 2 decades ago, PTV had a one-time moderator facility, that vanished in veins. This denial of special person rights is a cruel act and demands quick attention. There must also be special devices, particularly for the deaf to have hem excess to listen to the news in their way and have some entertainment.

The writer is Chairman of Department of Parasitology Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam



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