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Diversity of disabilities is a major challenge: Stuti Kacker

Jun 06, 2014

Stuti Kacker, Secretary of India’s Department of Disability Affairs, in an interview to One World South Asia during the launch of The Spinal Foundation, said that diversity of disabilities is a big challenge for the policy makers.

Stuti Kacker

OWSA: What in your opinion is the best way of bringing people with disabilities practically closer to the government schemes?

Kacker: Since disability is a state subject, there are many state governments which are doing a lot of good work in this area. They are reaching out to people with disabilities and aiming at their rehabilitation and economic empowerment.  NGOs too, are making a big difference.

We are also going to bring out a National Programme for Empowerment of Disabled People based on the CBR or Community Based Rehabilitation strategy which will focus on issues of inclusion. (CBR guidelines provide practical suggestions to programme managers on how to develop or strengthen community-based programmes to be inclusive of people with disabilities and their families).

The programme is still in the conceptual stage and aims to make use of CBR strategy to bring about inclusion. Inclusion will come only with a change in the attitude of parents of disabled persons and when they begin to see their disabled children as productive assets.

OWSA: Most of the government websites in India are not disabled-friendly yet. What efforts are being done to address this issue?

Kacker: We are persuading all departments to have accessible websites. We also have a national award for best accessible websites to encourage government departments to create disabled-friendly websites.

A lot of persuasion and motivation is going on to ensure that other departments also become disabled-friendly.

The diversity of disabilities poses a major challenge for us. The disabled people are a very diverse group of people with different individual needs. This diversity is such that it confuses an average person.

There are various kinds of disabilities including the mentally and physically disabled, and each disability has a different need.

OWSA: How do you think the inclusion of Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI) in the new Disability Act will help SCI patients?

Kacker: SCI patients have always been a part of the locomotor disabled. The (Rights of Persons with Disabilities) Bill is already in the Parliament and is being referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee. So it is up to them now to take a decision.

One World South Asia
: You often say that disability has to create a space for itself. What kind of space you talk about?

Stuti Kacker: We need to change the mindset of people in society that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is not very committed (to the cause of the disabled). Our disability department will have to make a space for itself because it is a relatively new department.

Since we’re dealing with 3 per cent of the total population of the country, we have to establish the identity and importance of the department and change its profile.

OWSA
: Disabled people are often considered as unproductive, even by their own families. Does the department have any plans to look into this issue?

Kacker: We are definitely working on it. This is quite similar to the condition of the women in India until a few years ago.

Earlier, girls were not sent to school because it was felt that spending money on their education was a waste since they would ultimately get married and go to another person’s family. But change occurred when parents realized that daughters were as capable of looking after them as any other person and subsequently started investing in them and educating them.

Similarly, parents need to realise that a disabled child is also capable of contributing to the family.

OWSA: The Sustainable Development Goals which will succeed MDGs are likely to focus more on issues like disability. How do you think it will help governments across the world in coping with the issue of disability?

Kacker: Greater international pressure and major international organisations shifting their focus to issues like disability is definitely going to help the cause.

These organizations have huge budgets which allow them to generate large-scale awareness about the issue.

OWSA: You said burn injuries patients, particularly acid attack victims, are also at a big disadvantage. Would you like to elaborate on that?

OWSA: In many educational institutions and hospitals, the disabled students and patients often feel left out, not because of adequate equipments or lack of monetary assistance but because of a lack of sensitivity regarding the issue of disability. What would you like to say about that?

Kacker: We are working towards building greater sensitivity but this is again an issue of diversity of disabilities which is a big challenge.

The medical aspect of disability is different from the rehabilitation aspect. This is why the Department of Disability Affairs has been constituted under the Ministry of Social Justice and not Health since our approach is different from that of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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