In India, accessibility and inclusion of the disabled remains a challenge. While the world has taken giant steps towards inclusion, India still has a lot of work to do.
The U.S. Consulate General Kolkata in association with Assam-based non-profit organization Shishu Sarothi Centre for Rehabilitation and Training for Multiple Disability,organized a TED Talk-styled event, titled “KolkataTalks– Let’s make a difference!” at the American Center to raise awareness about inclusive education and accessibility for persons with disabilities in general. Students, teachers and heads of educational institutions, government and NGO representatives, advocates of human rights, media and youth attended the program.
The goal of “KolkataTalks – Let’s make a difference!” is to use awareness building to diminish the socio-culturcal constraints of persons with disabilities and improve accessibility in public spaces in east and north-east India. The speaking event will be followed by alumni-led follow-on workshops for high-school students in Kolkata, Guwahati, Shillong, Patna and Ranchi, over the next six months. At the conclusion of the event, the audience was encouraged to take a pledge to promoting inclusivity in their communities.
Arman Ali, the Executive Director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and former Executive Director of Shishu Sarothi Centre for Rehabilitation and Training for Multiple Disability, was the event’s keynote speaker. Mr. Ali was joined at the event by three other speakers:
Diego Mariscal, the founder, CEO and Chief Disabled Officer of 2Gether-International, a not-for-profit startup that supports entrepreneurs with disabilities, who tuned in virtually from Washington D.C., Digital marketing expert and Paralympian Vibhas Sen, and Social entrepreneur Swapnil Tewari also spoke at the event.
Speaking at the event, Jay Treloar, Deputy Director of American Center in Kolkata, said, “The United States believes in equal opportunities and access for all people. Globally, persons living with disabilities are subjected to neglect and exclusion. They face a wide range of barriers–from physical to social–which impede their inclusion into society. It is, therefore, vital to raise awareness about these issues and work to alleviate those barriers.”
Arman Ali said “Accessibility is the bedrock of any disability inclusion effort. Any intervention without keeping in mind the accessibility needs of all disabilities is a joke.” Diego Mariscal said “The inclusion of people with disabilities is not a favor but a right for all Indian citizens. We all have a role to play in ensuring disabled people are included in employment, education, legislation and policy. the inclusion of disabled people makes for stronger communities, stronger societies and stronger countries.” Vibhas Sen felt “If you really want the change you really have to be inclusive where everyone from all walks of life is included. Otherwise the marginalized class will always remain marginalized and the plight of specially abled children will nothing but increase.” While Swapnil Tewari signed off by saying “Be it by evolutionary accident or intelligent design, the wish to exist is a human trait. And I am wired to be a Superhuman.”