KOHIMA, DECEMBER 3: Nagaland Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), Diethono Nakhro, while expressing that the global COVID-19 situation has aggravated all the pre-existing inequalities today, emphasized on the need for implementation of the rights of PwDs in the State.
She said this in her address as the theme speaker during the virtual observation of International Day of Persons with Disabilities on the theme “Building Back Better: Towards inclusion, Accessible and Sustainable Post Covid-19 world”.
The COVID-19 has been hard on everyone but it has been especially hard on the vulnerable communities like people living with disabilities, she said, adding that COVID-19 continues to have far reaching impact and the need to address the long existing systemic inequalities which the pandemic has glaring exposed must also be addressed.
“Even under normal circumstances, PWDs cannot access quality healthcare, education and employment,” she said. PWDs are unable to participate in the community and are more likely to live in poverty and experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse and because of these PWDs are the most marginalized in disaster situations”, she added.
“We already have the necessary law – the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 – which provides for accessibility, inclusion and full participation of PWDs in all aspects of the society, but laws are useless if they are not implemented,” she said.
Therefore, full and proper implementation of the crucial Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 is so important and this has become more urgent now than ever, Nakhro implored.
She also said that while some progress has been made in the implementation of laws meant to empower the PWDS, “It is just the beginning and we still have a long way to go and so much to do.”
The PwDs Commissioner further reiterated, “As we start reopening and rebuilding our systems in the post COVID-19 period, this is the opportunity for us to strategize and start building back inclusively by ensuring that all the provisions of the Act are enforced strictly and quickly.”
In this, she opined that education is the key to social transformation and empowerment and so inclusive and accessible education, as laid down in the RPWD Act, 2016, must be made a reality.
“We have to ensure that health facilities and services are accessible and PWDs are able to access quality healthcare,” she added.
Emphasizing that employment of PwDs has to be a major priority, she reasoned “When the vast majority of disabled people are unemployed and are unable to participate in income generating activities, we cannot have sustainable development.”
Another spectrum of disability that is usually out of the periphery of a normal person is the fate of PWDs in times of disaster. In this context, Nakhro talked about disability inclusive disaster management, accessibility not only in the physical environment but also accessible products and services, making social security, schemes and programmes more inclusive and responsive to the needs of PWDs, improved data, setting up teacher training centres, rehabilitation centres and also creating more disability awareness among general public as well as within the disability community.
Underscoring the urgency to take up all the said work that is needed to be done on mission mode to ensure that people who live with disability are not left behind again no matter the circumstances, Nakhro assured that her focus will be in all the aforementioned objectives.
While calling on everyone to join hands in the mission that is laid out, she stressed that a collaborative spirit among representative organizations of PWDs, the Government, Civil Societies and the Private Sector is very much needed to realize the agenda of accessibility, equal opportunities and inclusion.
She emphasized “Whether we can create an inclusive Nagaland that leaves no one behind depends on our collective action to address the inequalities that have existed for far too long.”
Also speaking on the occasion, Secretary, Department of Social Welfare, Amenla Sashi said promoting inclusion for PWDs means recognizing and protecting their rights. “We can all play a part in the inclusion process by supporting the many areas in which all levels of Government and private enterprises are facilitating change”, she added.