To my fellow disability community: Happy world Disability Day. Today, on 3rd of December 2020, the world celebrates International Day of Persons with Disabilities under the theme “Building back better: towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post Covid-19 world by, for and with Persons with Disabilities”. This year’s theme emphasizes the importance and awareness of strengthening collective efforts for universal access to essential services, health, education, employment, accessible information, social protection and other socio-culture opportunities.
Today is the day for us to spread awareness about our lived experiences and struggles as people’s awareness of disabilities is very limited therefore it is natural for people within society to have misconceptions about disabilities and the people who live with them. Disabilities raise a vast amount of curiosity amongst the public therefore if someone asks you a question revolving around your disability, it gives you the opportunity to educate them and to share your story by raising awareness of disability whilst doing so. Everyone might not understand but people always seem interested in discovering how you live your life and what adjustments you require.
Disabilities can become a significant source of inspiration. Talking about your disability and embracing it empowers others to overcome their problems and struggles. You might not realize how embracing your own disabilities can impact on other people. Sharing your own story might give others incentive to believe in themselves and it might inspire them to embrace their own disability.
I just want you all to know that you are an amazing person, whether you live with a disability or not. You shouldn’t feel insecure or ashamed of who you are because everyone is individual and everyone has their own personalities which make them special. Be happy, be yourself. If others don’t like it then let them be. Happiness is a choice. Life isn’t about pleasing everybody. If you ever feel judged or if you feel disheartened by the opinions of others just remember that your happiness is your choice and you shouldn’t let others bring you down, their opinions don’t matter at all. Live your life the way you want to live it. If you live with a disability and feel like you want to embrace it then go ahead and do so, you have nothing to lose. But if you don’t want to then that is completely acceptable too. Do whatever makes you happy and content, live your life the way you desire.
Lastly, empower yourself and others by realizing that your voice can make a change for generations to come. We need to become the voices that challenge. If you never raise your voice, then nothing will occur and no change will happen. Therefore, let’s join hands to raise our voice so that we can see a fully inclusive society and celebrate each other for who we truly are – talented and incredible human beings.
To the society: Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life. Disabled or able-bodied, we all have the power and responsibility to make society more inclusive for everyone. From lived experiences to listening to the disability community, there are so many ways we can continue to make our world more accepting of persons with disabilities. It is the foremost duty of the society to realize and accept persons with disabilities as humans too and include them in all spheres of life and societal activities. It’s interesting how we can see a person in one dimension and forget that he/she is a human being, intricate with multiple angles. When we see a person outside of our element, we tend to forget that he/she’s life is a culmination of different sides and not just how we see them in an isolated environment. Sometimes people can forget that a person with disability is first and foremost a human being with desires, talents, skills, heartache and loss, just like everyone else. At the basis of every person are the similarities we all share for being human and that include persons with disabilities.
To the government: It is always disheartened to express that the state government has repeatedly failed to address the issues faced by persons with disabilities in Nagaland. So far, the state government has not done any positive step to implement policies and programmes for PwDs on their well-being and standard of living. For the past 5 years, I have personally raised the issues on anomalies in job reservation and post identified suitable for PwDs in accordance with Rights to Persons with Disabilities (RPwDs) Act 2016 but the government apathetically turned a deaf ear. Though the state government tardily adopted RPwDs Act 2016 from 13th August, 2019, the reservation policy of identified posts suitable for persons with benchmark disabilities was dilatorily implemented after a lapse of one year with effect from 13th August, 2020 but the concerned departments, NPSC and NSSB are yet to comply with it for the recruitment process. Therefore, the government must immediately address this negligence by discrimination, current employment gaps and challenges for PwDs in Nagaland.
Far as we know, decent work and employment are essential for the well-being and dignity of all, including persons with disabilities. Being able to work has a positive impact on social inclusion and quality of life. Quality employment is also essential for economic empowerment and thus for the independent living of persons with disabilities. Employment and decent work are the most effective means to break the vicious cycle of poverty and marginalization in which persons with disabilities may fall. The professional potential of persons with disabilities often remains untapped due to misconceptions about their working capacity, negative societal attitudes and non-accessible workplaces, vocational skills centres and job services. Gaps remain in the employment of persons with disabilities in the public services, government offices, private sectors and mainstream labour market. The state government must take initiatives to address these issues, through anti-discrimination legislation, full participation and equal opportunity systems, as well as by developing disability-inclusive state employment policies, technical vocational education and training, public employment services and programmes, public procurement, entrepreneurship support services, and social protection schemes for persons with disabilities, which are compatible with work.
There are several challenges for PwDs in Nagaland to access the job market in Nagaland. Some of the important factors which hinder them to access employment in Nagaland include lack of education and training, lack of financial resources, inaccessible workplace, attitudes of employers and non-compliance of policy frameworks. However, the primary determinant of employment is non-compliance of the policy frameworks and provisions of the PwDs Act 1995 & RPwDs Act 2016. Critical analysis of all the guidelines measures laid down by the various policies in the aforementioned Acts reveal that although emphasis has been laid in legislative framework for promoting employment of persons with disabilities, the state government has excruciatingly failed to produce a significant impact. This signifies that all the piecemeal efforts need to be replaced by more well planned and coordinated measures. The government has a significant role to implement policy frameworks, acts and laws to dismantle the barriers to employment and to invest sufficient funding and expertise to unlock the vast potential of persons with disabilities. The government should no longer overlook the thousands of PwDs in Nagaland, who are denied access to employment and never get the chance to shine. There is still a huge gap to be covered in the implementation of the existing disability laws in the Nagaland state, especially in relation to reservations of jobs for PwDs and awareness of the provisions of the RPwDs Act 2016.
Affirming the current assumption, Persons with disabilities, particularly those with severe disabilities that require a higher level of care and support, are more likely to be economically vulnerable. Social protection programmes could help overcome these situations, but the coverage of persons with disabilities is limited due to the lack of awareness about social protection, and lack of accessibility to and discrimination by grant offices, among others. For instance, on poverty alleviation and social assistance schemes, the level of coverage appeared trifling and the genuine PwDs beneficiaries were neglected as detected by the Audit department. Moreover, in nearly all the cases, the combined social protection that the various poverty alleviation and social welfare programmes offer to PwDs appeared to be rather insignificant. This is a product of low awareness among PwDs of programmes and schemes, weak channels for increasing demand in several cases, and in most cases an apparent lack of focus on the whole area of social protection for PwDs. In contrast, the system of reservations under general poverty alleviation schemes has clearly failed to achieve the desired outcomes and consideration needs to be given to alternative approaches to livelihood promotion and other forms of social protection for PwDs.
Lastly, there remains limited reference to the role of persons with disabilities themselves in policy development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Disabled People Organization (Nagaland State Disability Forum) is not participating as a decision making body in implementing the policy frameworks nor PwDs themselves. Rather, they remain agents who interact with the public policy and delivery systems either through public agencies or at best NGOs. While the PwDs Act 1995 and RPwDs Act 2016 note that “Persons with disabilities are an important resource for the country, and seeks to create an environment that provides them with equal opportunities, protection of their rights and full participation in society”, this critical insight is not reflected in Nagaland State and therefore, the state government must address these issues in the larger interest of PwDs community.
Ghunavi G Kinnimi Sumi
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