What comes to your mind when you think of Isaac Newton, Albert
Einstein, Michaelangelo and Mozart ? Geniuses ? Great thinkers,
innovators, artists? Yes, all of those, but another common aspect in
each one of them is that they were autistic. Beethovan, a remarkable
musician, who composed one of the greatest symphony in the world but
ironically he was deaf. When we think of great minds with a disability in
recent times, Stefan Hawking comes to mind. He was a man who was
diagnosed at the age of 21 by a motor neuron disease and told by the
doctor that he had less than 5 years to live. He was bound to a
wheelchair due to this illness and unable to speak, thereby using a voice
synthesizer to convey his thoughts. However, he did not let his disability
become a hindrance in attainment of his goals; instead he used that
disability to propel himself further in his career and achievements. He is
famed with his work on black holes, relativity and cosmology, being
regarded as a genius of our era whose legacy will continue to live on.
These great individuals suffered a disability that affected their bodies,
however their spirit could not be repressed, it triumphed against the
odds that were stacked against them and their efforts contributed to a
better world. A disability is more of a socio-psychological stigma that
deprives an individual from realizing their true potential rather than a
The social inclusion of person with disabilities is imperative because a
society which cares about the well being of persons with disability is
considered to be the best as disability affects not only the concerned
person and their family, but also has a trickledown effect on the society
and the nation. The non-inclusion of persons with disabilities in the
process of development has several ramifications, as stigmatization may result in additional cost to the person with disability, for their care
providers and their family members. Social exclusion at times leads to
loss of rights with long-term loss of productive potential of the person
with disability due to lack of appropriate environment and access. They
often suffer extreme isolation and experience higher rates of poverty and
deprivation than non-disabled people. The need of the hour is their
speedy empowerment to emphasize the importance of mainstreaming
disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable
The word ‘DISABLED’ in itself is part of the problem, whenever this word
is used, it paints a dreary picture of someone weak and lacking abilities,
the better word that was coined by the US Democratic National
Committee in 1980s is ‘DIFFERENTLY ABLED’. This term lays
emphasis on the fact that people with disabilities are capable of
accomplishing a particular task, but only in a manner that is different
from people without a disability.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), around 1 billion people
in the world live with some kind of disability. Any form of disability usually
results in exclusion and social discrimination. People living with
disability have less access to educational, employment and other
opportunities. In case of physical disability, their mobility is comprised,
causing them to stay confined to their homes.
The utilization of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities (CRPD) should be used as a guiding framework in ensuring
that exclusion and inequality are not created or perpetuated for people
with disabilities. This includes institutional, attitudinal, physical and
legal barriers, and barriers to information and communication.
A recent article published in the journal World Development, based on
earlier UNICEF Research, analyzes the gap in both primary and
secondary school enrolment among children with disabilities across 15
developing countries. The article said ‘Disability consistently reduced the chance of primary and secondary school attendance by a median of a 31 percentage points’
In 13 out of the 15 countries studied, disability reduced the probability of
attending school more than 10 per cent. In an extreme case, disability
reduced school attendance by 61 per cent for boys and 59 per cent for
girls in Indonesia. The study also revealed that about 90 per cent of
children with disabilities who are out of school have never attended
Education needs to be made inclusive for people with disabilities to give
them a better chance to assimilate in the society as normal citizens.
Inclusive education is primarily about restructuring school culture, policy
and practice so that it responds to the diversity of students in the society.
It sees individual differences not as problems to be fixed, but as
opportunities to enrich learning and embrace change. Inclusive
education is a dynamic and continuing process of facilitating the
participation of all students, including those with disabilities. This
process involves work at various levels including that of teachers to
modify teaching and learning strategies to give children with disabilities
In order to promote and implement inclusive education effectively, there
is a need for proper transport and enabling environment for children with
special needs. The parents should be actively involved with the learning
progress of their children. The children should be provided with
interactive & fun filled classrooms. A flexible curriculum should be
developed to reduce academic load, as well as appropriate teaching and
learning material. There should be a linkage established between
preschool and primary education.
The benefits of an inclusive education are that the students learn to
appreciate each other’s unique strengths and abilities. Additionally, they
are also encouraged to help each other, while students with disabilities
are able to foster friendships in a natural, supportive, and encouraging
environment. The non-disabled students get a chance to develop
positive attitudes towards people with differences. The students can
imbibe desirable social behaviour from each other.
Disability is an ‘umbrella term for impairments, activity limitations and
participation restrictions’ which is caused by an interaction between the
health conditions of an individual and the contextual factors reflected in
the social-economic environment of the day. The main objectives about
disability are related to accessibility, empowerment and inclusion of the
persons affected by it.
The government of Pakistan enacted a law in 1981 known as ‘Disabled
Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance’ to provide for
employment, rehabilitation and welfare of disabled persons in the
country. In 2011, the provinces of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
adopted the 1981 Ordinance. Sindh has enacted its own law which is
known as The Sindh Differently Abled Persons (employment,
rehabilitation and welfare) Act, 2014.
Government of Pakistan has also ratified ‘ILO Convention on Vocational
Rehabilitation and Employment of Disabled Persons’. It has also ratified
the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
According to World Bank and WHO estimates, at least 10% of country’s
total population is disabled/persons with disabilities (PWDs). Of these 18
million PWDs, over 5 million live in the urban areas while the other 13
million reside in rural areas. However, the alarming fact is that only
136,928 PWDs have been registered with National Database &
Registration Authority (NADRA) and issued national identity cards. This
clearly shows the lack of representation and authorization of these
individuals by the government.
The laws and ratifications done by the government are steps in the
positive direction; however, it is more important to implement these laws
in their entirety. Without implementation, the laws remain redundant. The
government should move away from welfare oriented policies to a more
rights based approach for persons with disability. Policy makers and civil
society activists have generally started thinking about the issue of
disability in terms of a rights based and inclusive paradigm.
The ultimate goal is to achieve a life of equality and free from
discrimination for people living with disability. This will require a change
in the legal provisions and institutional arrangements; however the
biggest change has to be a change in the mindset of the people. The
way we perceive and view people with disability is the biggest part of the
problem, they don’t need our sympathy, they need to be treated as
equals and not as inferior to us.
Helen Keller born in 1880, who was blind and deaf, but she did not let
that deter her from acquiring a bachelors degree, she went on to
become an author and political activist. She rightly said
‘If you have to judge people, judge them based on what they can
do, not on what they cannot. Judge them based on who they are,
not who they aren’t. Otherwise, you’re judging based on your own
The change in our perception and mindset would come faster if we see
the disabled as capable as anyone else in this world. The accessibility,
empowerment and social inclusion of people with disability is a great
challenge for the government, however, it is not just relegated to them,
the citizens need to put in efforts to make it a reality as well.
The social inclusion of persons with disabilities can be possible through
changing the attitude of members of the society by developing a proper
understanding of the problems faced by the persons with disabilities.
The infusion of self-esteem and self-confidence in the persons with
disabilities is essential so that they know that their limitations can be
overcome to a large extent by self-effort and better environment.
Additionally, it is important to improve the knowledge and skills of
persons with disabilities to make them capable of handling different
tasks in the employment market. Also, it is necessary to motivate various
employers within public and private sectors to employ the Persons with
Disabilities (PwDs) who can perform a number of jobs like other
There is an urgent need to mobilize the voluntary sector to actively
participate in the capacity building, rehabilitation and empowerment for
PwDs. The improvement of training, education and research for the
benefit of PwDs . Also, it is essential to provide social security systems
and other arrangements for making PwDs live with dignity. The
government should provide them with appropriate assistive devices and
appliances at low cost to increase their accessibility. The government
should also include PwDs in the decision making process at various
levels for better policy formulation, monitoring and implementation of
There should be rehabilitative schemes which provide financial
assistance to NGOs for providing education, vocational training and
rehabilitation of Persons with Disabilities. There should also be a
scheme of assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/ Fitting of
Aids/Appliances, provides aids to various implementation agencies
(NGOs/National Institutes/other local bodies) for purchase and of aids &
assistive devices for the physical rehabilitation of PwDs.
There should be national scholarship schemes for students with
disabilities under the national funds to provide financial assistance to
students to pursue graduate, professional, vocational or technical
courses and various skill development courses for their empowerment.
There should also be free health care and medical facilities provided to
person with disabilities, this should be provided through state funds.
One of the biggest problems in Pakistan is lack of accessibility for
people with physical disabilities to different public places and buildings.
In the European Union, a building design cannot be approved without
including a ramp access and toilet facilities for the disabled; however,
same is not the case in Pakistan. A barrier free access and toilet
facilities should be developed for all buildings for people with disabilities
to improvise on their mobility.
There are a lot of individuals within Pakistan who have achieved great
success in their lives despite suffering from a disability. A woman named
Shazia who is from Quetta, Pakistan, she was 3 years old when she
became a victim of polio and got paralyzed. She didn’t give up and
completed her Masters in Fine Arts from Lahore and she was rewarded
the Medal of Excellence by the Government of Pakistan.
Captain Jamshaid Anwar Warraich is another example of a person who
did not let his disability discourage him from achieving his goals. He is
28 years old army office, who lost his legs in September 2010 in a mine
blast in South Waziristan. Now, he wears a prosthetic on his leg and has
returned to service with his unit based in Rawalpindi.
Muniba Mazari is a woman who suffered a tragic car accident and
became a paraplegic. She was bound to a wheelchair but she used her
artistic skills to depict her journey through paintings. Muniba is now a
United Nations Goodwill ambassador, who uses this platform to
advocate for rights of people with disabilities.
People such as these who have achieved amazing goals without letting
their disability hinder their path should be involved by the government of
Pakistan to conduct trainings, motivational speeches and workshops for
people with disabilities to encourage and motivate them.
The government should also increase the allocation of funds for sports
and extra-curricular activities for PwDs as this can positively impact their
self esteem and confidence. In the process, if they win laurels and
awards for their country, this can give them a sense of self achievement,
assurance and satisfaction.
The Constitution ensures equality, freedom, justice and dignity of all
citizens of the country including persons with disabilities without any
discrimination, which implies an inclusive society for all. In the past
decade or so, disability issues have managed to get only a minuscule
space in the mind space of policy makers and decision makers, and
certainly not as much as required. It is necessary to ensure that the
matter of disability is included across all policies, across all ministries
and departments, and a time frame is fixed to make our facilities,
schools, colleges, public places, etc. accessible for all people with
disabilities and adequate resources are allocated.
Concentrated efforts are needed by the government and the society to
remove the stigma and negative perception attached to people with
disabilities. The differences amongst the people make the society more
eclectic and diverse, these differences should be celebrated and people
with disabilities should be treated with equality to make their lives more
World Report on Disability, World Health Organisation and World Bank, 2011
‘Educating Teachers for Children with Disabilities, Report for UNICEF, 2013,
at P. 28
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (2016) Thematic study on
the rights of Persons with Disabilities: Article 11 of the CRPD
See ‘Futures Stolen: Barriers to Education for Children with Disabilities in
Nepal’ Report by Human Rights Watch,