NEED FOR DISABILITY RIGHTS AWARENESS GENERATION

Disabled population in India as per Census 2011 is ,out of the 121 Cr population, 2.68 Cr per sons are disabled which is 2.21% of the total population. Majority (69%) of the disabled population resided in rural areas (1.86 Cr disabled persons in ru ral areas and 0.81 Cr in urban areas). Section 39 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 clearly mandates the Governments to promote awareness campaigns and sensitization programmes to ensure that the rights of persons with disabilities are

protected. As a part of this process, Goa hosted India’s first-of-its-kind in clusive international festival “International Purple Fest 2024”, wel coming over 8,000 participants from India and various countries. It was or ganized by the Government of Goa and supported by Government of India. This Fest hosted various sessions tailored to different types of disabilities, offering guidance on effectively managing challenges. Moreover, specialized sessions have been planned for parents of disabled individuals, providing invaluable guidance on care-giving.

Purple is often associated with power, dignity, and independence. These qualities align with the goals of the disability rights movement, which seeks to empower individuals with disabilities and promote their equal participation in society.

At the heart of this Fest are esteemed 22 Purple Ambassadors, each representing one of the 21 types of disabilities listed under the RPwD Act, 2016, along with the significant inclusion of spinal cord injury. It is hoped that all States/UTs will organise such intense campaigns from time to time to reach out to the last person in the remote areas of the country to achieve inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities.

GOA PURPLE FESTIVAL 2024 BRINGS DIVERSITY GLOBALLY: THE GOA STATE COMMISSIONER FOR PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Purple Fest, the inclusive festival tailored for individuals with disabilities (PwDs), celebrated its second edition in Goa in January 2024. Marking a pioneering event in the renowned coastal state of India, this festival served as a dynamic platform for people with disabilities to spotlight their talents, forge connections with those confronting similar challenges, and revel in their unique abilities. Guruprasad Pawaskar, the Goa State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, sees the festival as a global showcase of diversity. Having received the National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities in 2023 from President Droupadi Murmu on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (December 3, 2023), Pawaskar, a true changemaker, shared in an exclusive interview with Seema Jairath, the Editor in-Chief of The Bridge India, E- Magazine that the festival is strategically designed to foster the growth of the Purple Economy. Excerpts from the interview:

TBI: What are the main objectives of this year’s Fest compared to your last year’s national Fest? GP: The International Purple Fest 2024 marked a unique milestone as the first of its kind inclusive festival in India organized at an international level, showcasing the transformative power of unity in establishing a welcoming and inclusive world.

The objectives and intentions from the previous festival remained largely consistent. The primary goal of this year’s festival was to encompass all aspects of a person’s life with disabilities, spanning health, legal matters, policy, education, employment, entertainment, sports, and more. The objectives of International Purple Fest 2024 were-Breaking Down Barriers: The festival aimed to challenge stereotypes, misconceptions, and prejudices surrounding disability, promoted understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities within society.

Empowerment and Advocacy: The festival seeked to empower individuals with disabilities, fostered a sense of dignity, independence, and self confidence. It also served as a platform for persons with disabilities to advocate for their rights and address challenges faced.

Inclusive Platform: The festival provided a collaborative platform for individuals, organizations, associations and institutions which worked in the field of accessibility, inclusion, and disability rights to share best practices, insights, and ideas for creating a more inclusive society.

Awareness and Sensitization: Through various events and activities, the festival raised awareness about different disabilities, their impact on individuals’ lives, and the importance of fostering an inclusive culture.

Purple Economy: The Purple Fest is designed to encourage the growth of the Purple Economy, which refers to the economic ecosystem that revolves around products, services, and initiatives catering to the needs and talents of PwDs. TBI: What is the extent of participation of persons with disabilities, their organizations, NGOs, Central &:State Govts and foreign countries?

GP: The International Purple Fest, Goa- 2024, witnessed a daily footfall of 1 Lakh people from January 8th to 13th, 2024. It has evolved into a movement driven by the community—by the people, for the people, and of the people.

The community took the initiative and responsibility of curating and implementing the fest. The Purple Ambassadors curated various discussions, including a convention on invisible disabilities led by Dr. Anubha Mahajan, the Ambassador for Chronic and Neurological conditions. Prasad Joshi, the Ambassador for Deaf, ensured participation from the Deaf community across the state. Vishanth Nagvekar, the Ambassador for Locomotor disability, coordinated sports activities such as wheelchair basketball, wheelchair cricket, para-athletics, etc. Similarly, each Purple Ambassador took ownership to represent their communities.

NGOs played a masterful role in curating events, and key partners contributed significantly to the festival’s organization based on the current needs of the community. Purple Think Tank panel discussions covered topics like Health Insurance for persons with disabilities, Political Inclusion, Advocacy Reforms, Social Inclusion, and Promoting Leadership. Purple Exhibitions provided a platform for NGOs and organizations to showcase best practices and build networks. The new concept introduced this year, Purple Street, focused on live workstations by children and adults with disabilities, providing them with a space to make and sell products, showcasing their talents, and creating a level playing field that normalized differences.

Since Purple Fest 2023, there has been a shift in the narrative of the disability community in the State of Goa. Government offices are now more aware and sensitized to the disability sector, with about 80% of them framing Equal Opportunity Policies. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, was discussed at the assembly for 2-3 hours. At the International Purple Fest 2024, The All State Disability Commissioners meet provided a platform for commissioners from different states to share challenges and best practices, fostering collective efforts to make the country inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities.

The State and Central Government played a pivotal role in the success of International Purple Fest 2024. The fest was organized by the Office of the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Goa, Directorate of Social Welfare, Govt. of Goa, and Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, the fest became a reality under the leadership of dignitaries like Shri. Virendra Kumar, Hon’ble Union Minister, Dr. Pramod Sawant, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Goa, Shri. Subhash Phal Dessai, Hon’ble Social Welfare Minister of Goa, and Shri. Rajesh Agarwal, Secretary of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.

International representation was notable with participants from countries like Japan, Austria, Sweden, the United States of America, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, etc. Voice for Specially

 INCLUSIVITY UNLEASHED: HOW INDIA INC. IS SHAPING A FUTURE FOR ALL ABILITIES

Indian giant corporates such as SBI and Microsoft are setting benchmarks for creating professional opportunities and striving towards an equal world for individuals with diverse abilities. By Karan Bhardwaj

In the dynamic realm of corporate responsibility, a paradigm shift is underway as Indian corporations actively engage in pioneering initiatives to redefine the landscape of disability inclusion. Shattering conventional norms, these entities are emerging as champions of change, steering the conversation towards inclusivity and empowerment. Within this transformative journey, two standout organisations, SBI Foundation and Microsoft India, stand at the forefront, their innovative approaches weaving a tapestry of impact and resilience in the lives of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). This is not just corporate social responsibility, it is a testament to a profound commitment to shape a world where diversity is celebrated, and opportunities are boundless for everyone.

Foundations of Inclusivity At the heart of this transformative journey is SBI Foundation’s Centre of Excellence (CoE) for PwDs, established in 2017. Operating across 17 states, the CoE has become a centralised support system, catalysing change through Samarthya, Samagra Shiksha, Swavlamban, and Care initiatives. This multifaceted approach addresses challenges throughout the life cycle of PwDs, from assistive technology development to fostering inclusive education and workforce inclusion. Simultaneously, Microsoft India’s “Inclusion To Action” initiative, launched in 2022, collaborates with EnAble India to unlock 1,00,000 opportunities for PwDs across sectors. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) outlines a comprehensive framework for initiatives, including tech skilling, mentorship, internships, and job placements.

Bridging the divide Historically, the Banking, Financial, and Insurance (BFSI) sectors have encountered barriers to the full integration of PwDs, with factors such as limited accessibility, lack of awareness, and attitudinal challenges hindering their participation in the workforce. However, SBI Foundation takes a pioneering role in the BFSI sectors. Collaborating with key institutions like RBI, Bank of Baroda, and Union Bank, the foundation not only provides specialised training but actively promotes awareness and sensitivity towards disabilities. Accessible banking practices, tailored loan schemes, and active participation in disability inclusion initiatives envision a future where banking services are universally accessible. Over 2,300 individuals have benefitted from CoE’s specialised training, equipping them for successful careers in banking. To foster an inclusive environment, CoE sensitises HR, IT, and premises officials about disabilities, ensuring PwDs feel welcomed and supported. The foundation’s commitment extends beyond CoE, with accessible banking practices like ramps, Braille signage, audio announcements, tailored loan schemes for PwDs, and active participation in disability inclusion initiatives across the BFSI sector.

In parallel, Microsoft India’s cultural shift initiatives aim for increased representation of PwDs in the workforce, fostering inclusive product development and benefiting technology users with disabilities. The technical skilling programmes contribute not only to enhanced digital accessibility but also to a cultural shift in organisations as they navigate hybrid work strategies. Previously, Microsoft had joined forces with SBI Foundation to create opportunities for young individuals living with disabilities in the BFSI

sector. This collaborative initiative aims to equip these young individuals with the necessary technology and training, enhancing their readiness for integration into the BFSI workforce. In its inaugural year, the programme set a target to upskill 500 young individuals for BFSI jobs across five major geographies—Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and the National Capital Region.

Local impact, global change Recognising the importance of localised impact, SBI Foundation engages with over 25 local implementation agencies. This community-centric approach ensures tailored projects that meet the unique needs of PwDs in diverse regions. The CoE actively involves PwDs, their families, local NGOs, government bodies, and experts to ensure a comprehensive and community-driven response. Strategic partnerships with government bodies enhance the impact and sustainability of initiatives, aligning them with broader policy objectives.

Similarly, Microsoft India’s collaborations signify an ongoing effort to engage with diverse stakeholders, including industry leaders, advocates, experts, policymakers, and the disability community. Their collaborative endeavors extend impact by involving over 100 organisations, seeking to reduce the unemployment rate for PwDs and instigate a culture of accessibility that permeates the industry and business community.

Tech-driven transformations

The integration of technology for accessibility has emerged as a powerful catalyst in transforming the lives of disabled individuals, unlocking new horizons of independence and inclusivity. Naturally, leveraging technology for enhanced accessibility is a shared commitment. SBI Foundation’s CoE collaborates with partners like BMVSS, Social Alpha, XRCVC, and ThinkerBell, showcasing a commitment to catalysing transformative solutions. These collaborations are making a profound impact on the lives of PwDs, fostering inclusivity and advancing accessibility in various aspects of their lives. One notable partnership with BMVSS focuses on addressing the locomotor needs of over 3,500 PwDs nationwide, providing free assistive technologies like artificial limbs, hearing devices, wheelchairs, and more. Another impactful collaboration with Social Alpha supports start-ups addressing various disabilities through innovative solutions. The initiative with XRCVC enhances accessibility and empowers those with visual impairments through smart canes and innovative apps. Additionally, partnerships with ThinkerBell have introduced the Annie Braille Device, significantly advancing inclusive education.

The impact of these transformative efforts on the lives of Persons with Disabilities resonates as a testament to the potential of corporate initiatives in fostering a more equitable and accessible society. Their commitment to a future where diversity and inclusivity are celebrated across every facet of society is not just a corporate responsibility but a shared vision for a brighter and more inclusive tomorrow

CELEBRATION OF INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, President Droupadi Murmu, in a grand ceremony in New Delhi, bestowed the National Awards for the Empowerment of Divyangjan 2023 upon 21 individuals and 9 institutions for their exemplary con tributions across various fields.

President Smt. Murmu, addressing the audience, reiterated the significance of prioritizing the empowerment of Divyangjan, constituting 15 percent of the global population. She applauded their inspirational struggles and achievements, recognizing them as a source of inspiration for all citizens.

The President proudly declared the new parliament building as accessible and a reflection of inclusivity and empathy, demonstrating the Government’s dedication to creating an environment that accommodates Divyangjan. Stressing the importance of both physical and digital access, she highlighted the necessity of fostering an inclusive ecosystem aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals 2030.

On this prestigious occasion, 30 outstanding Individuals, Institutions, Organizations, States, and Districts were honored for their remarkable achievements and contributions to the empowerment of Divyangjan.

VISIT OF SHRI RAJ KUMAR MAKKAD, STATE COMMISSIONER DISABILITY HARYANA AT A SPECIAL SCHOOL FOR MENTALLY CHALLENGED STUDENTS IN ARMY CANTONMENT AT HISAR

 NGOs SHAPING A MORE INCLUSIVE TOMORROW

As India navigates the path towards a more equitable society, NGOs such as Ek Koshish Special School, SPARC-India, and Sense India stand as guiding lights, illuminating a future where diversity is not just acknowledged but celebrated, and where every individual, regardless of their abilities, has the opportunity to shine. By Anshul Gautam

In the vast canvas of India’s social landscape, a silent revolution is underway. It’s led not by the powerful, but by those committed to empowering the often-overlooked segments of our society – individuals with diverse abilities. In this narrative, three NGOs stand out, each weaving a distinct thread into the tapestry of inclusivity. Ek Koshish Special School, SPARC-India, and Sense India are beacons of change, working tirelessly to reshape lives affected by disability. Their stories intersect, creating a mosaic that paints a picture of resilience, innovation, and the transformative power of inclusivity.

Transformative education

In the heart of transformative education lies Ek Koshish Special School, a testament to the belief that inclusive learning has the power to reshape lives. Founded in 2005 by Mridul Singh, the school emerged from the pressing need for quality rehabilitation services. Singh, a former faculty member, recognised the gaps in individualised educational support and embarked on a courageous journey to provide tailored education to those with different abilities.

The institute’s unwavering dedication has not gone unnoticed, receiving accolades such as NCR’s top-ranked International school award from VSSD in 2022 and commendations from Ladli Foundation and Lions Club Veg the following year. Ek Koshish focuses on the betterment of individuals with conditions like cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, and neurological complications through personalised teaching methods. Prioritising holistic treatment approaches, including sensory association and professional therapeutic support, underscores their commitment to enhancing the overall well-being of students.

While Ek Koshish diligently addresses challenges in securing sponsors for underprivileged students and ensuring consistent funds for travel, their special attention to talent development programmes sets them apart. These initiatives involve creating handcrafted items from paper, candles, decoratives, and gemstones carved out from cardboard boxes. Beyond honing practical skills, these programmes instill confidence among individuals facing specific needs.

Nurturing potential, igniting change Nestled in the expansive landscapes of Uttar Pradesh, SPARC-India stands tall as a symbol of empowerment under the visionary leadership of Dr. Amitabh Mehrotra. Since its inception in 1997, this organisation has garnered praise for its unwavering commitment, positively impacting the lives of over 30,000 people, including children with disabilities. Operating across more than 30 districts, their programmes have reached a population exceeding 1,50,000.

Dr. Mehrotra, the founder, himself living with cerebral palsy, embodies the spirit of inclusivity. He is driven by personal experiences and a profound understanding of the neglect surrounding disability issues. Hence, SPARC-India employs a multifaceted approach, focusing on skill development, promoting equal access to education, and offering career-focused training programmes primarily tailored for differently-abled children.

The Jyoti Kiran School, a special school for children with cerebral palsy, established in 2003, exemplifies their dedication. Currently, the school accommodates 45 students with various disabilities, aiming to strengthen their education and mobility. In their Community-Based Rehabilitation Programme, the NGO reaches out to 30 children with disabilities and 80 persons with disabilities in both urban and rural areas. This programme strives to provide better education, health facilities, livelihood options, and other entitlements.

Their Skill Development and Placement Programme (SDP) is a three month residential training programme for Youth with Disabilities (YwD). This initiative covers life skills, communication skills, basic computer training, personality development, and trade-specific skills like Retail/BPO/ Data Entry Operator. The programme ensures that youths with disabilities have enhanced skills, diversified livelihood options, and job security.

The Vocational Programme by SPARC India focuses on providing training to challenged and non-challenged marginalised women. Through the “Vocational & Placement Centre,” a unit established in 2005, the organisation addresses the critical issue of job security for Women with Disabilities (WwDs) and non challenged marginalized women. In Lucknow, SPARC-India’s Inclusive Education Programme collaborates with government primary schools to promote inclusive practices.

Despite challenges such as limited funding, bureaucratic hurdles, and cultural differences, SPARC-India remains resilient. The NGO navigates difficulties like motivation and education gaps in communities, lack of accessible infrastructure, and uncooperative family members. Their ongoing commitment to balancing short term goals with long-term sustainability and adapting to dynamic environments showcases dedication to inclusivity and empowerment.

Sense India: Illuminating paths in silence

In the labyrinth of challenges presented by deafblindness, Sense India stands tall as a unique beacon of empowerment. Since 1997, Sense India has devoted itself to addressing the intricate needs of individuals grappling with this multi sensory disability. It proudly holds the distinction of being the sole national level organisation committed to providing comprehensive support and awareness for those dealing with deafblindness and multiple disabilities, along with their families.

At the core of their impactful initiatives lies specialised expertise spanning deafblind communication, mobility, accessible information, assistive devices, and rehabilitation. The organisation adopts a multifaceted approach, not only offering technical assistance to partner NGOs but also directly training their staff to adeptly work with children and adults navigating the challenges of deafblindness and multiple disabilities. Over the past 23 years, Sense India’s well-orchestrated efforts, coupled with a network of grassroots organisations, have touched the lives of over 78,000 individuals with deafblindness. Through a partnership-driven strategy, collaborating directly with local organisations, the NGO has successfully implemented 61 projects in 23 states, exemplifying its cost effective and innovative service delivery model.

Accredited to the United Nations, Sense India enjoys consultative status on deafblindness, and its outreach extends to South-Asian countries.

In unity and diversity, these NGOs forge ahead, transforming challenges into opportunities, and silhouettes into success stories. Together, they paint a vibrant canvas of a world where every individual, regardless of their abilities, can contribute, thrive, and be celebrated.