Every year December 3 is observed as the ‘International Day for the people with disabilities’ across the globe. Bangladesh also observes the day in some cities and may be in district towns also but I have doubt about its impact except in the awareness raising level. I am the father of a disabled child. My son is intelligent, curious, amicable, and sociable and cricket lover but he cannot walk. He is now nine years old. Every year many seminars and symposiums take place in the country regarding issue of disability. The people in the government tell big talks about the issue and announce that they have taken an extensive program or many positive steps but we don’t see any step. I don’t find any beneficiary of those announced talks. The recent times also the entire machinery of the government seems to be busy with a grand program for disabled people. How far actually it reaches the real sufferers remains a big question.
There is no such suitable school run by the government where physically disabled children can get education. There is no such shopping mall or market even in the city of Dhaka let alone other cities and towns where the physically challenged people can go. Here government has only to pass an order that every market must be usable for the disabled people. Can we see it? I find difficulties to send my son to school. No school is friendly for the children with disabilities. He now goes to a school close to my house but now he must change his school as he is going to grade four. No transport usable and friendly for these kinds of children is available when 1.9 million people are disabled in the country. I contacted the chairman/principal of the school; she told us that my son needs to sit for admission test. But to take him to school and make him sit with other students in the existing seating arrangement in the school seem to be a difficult or no-possible task. I don’t have car that I can take him to school by it. Rickshaw cannot carry him comfortably. We care for it? Who bothers about it? We are busy with meeting and seminars. This is with my son who lives in Dhaka and I am a conscious guardian. What happens to those who cannot afford schooling for the children at all , what happens to those who live in villages? Jowaherul Islam Mamun, president of Society for the Welfare of the Internationally Disabled, Bangladesh said, in the 2011 census only 1.4 of 14 crore people had been recorded as disabled which in reality was much higher.
A UN report says that over one billion people, approximately 15 percent of world’s population, have some form of disability. Besides, person with disabilities are considered as the world’s most marginalized people, whose needs, beliefs and concerns are not acknowledged by society. “As per the 2011 report on disability by the world Health Organization and the World Bank , Bangladesh has around 1.9 million physically challenged people while the world has more than one billion, 15 of the total population .”Chairman of Bangladesh Human Rights Foundation Elena Khan urged the government to make all shopping malls suitable for children with disabilities so that they do not face trouble moving around. Around 1 percent children suffer from rickets and end up as physically challenged. My son wants to go to market on every occasion but how I can make him understand that our markets are not suitable for them to go and move. No arrangement for using wheel chair in any market. I just get astonished how say so tall talks!
Kamal Hosssain, manager of Shikhon, a community mobilization and advocacy program run by Save the Children observed that a clear definition of disabilities was a prerequisite as schools in Bangladesh often mix up. Farzeen Ferous Alam, president of Oggro an organization designed to extend educational support to visually impaired girls, pointed out that Braille books were pretty expensive. She said the cost of Braille books should be reduced or made free of charge to encourage more visually impaired students in studies. If that was done, Oggro could have increased the number of visually impaired students from 17 to 100.” “There is no specially designed curriculum in schools for the children with disabilities. Besides, the school premises, including the lavatories, are not made to the needs of the physically challenged.”- Nazrana Yasmin Hira, Program Manager of Manussher Jonno Foundatin.These areas call for genuine care of the government if they really want to turn the disabled people into human resources. The government should introduce special curriculum for children with disabilities and reduce the cost of their study materials in order to integrate them in the mainstream education speakers at a roundtable.
SARPV’s Hamudl Haqu emphazised ensuring early-age treatment for the slow learners with children with disabilities “Regarding disability, the plan and policy focuses on the overall development and improvement of social and education inclusion of persons with disabilities. But it is disappointing that the development as well as educational programmes for these persons still remain under the Ministry of Social Welfare. It indicates that the educational issue of these persons is being considered as welfare or a charity rather than a development issue.”—( Nigar Sultana, DS 3 December’ Disability Issue: Development or charity?”)
People with disabilities generally have poorer health, lower education achievement, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities because of many obstacles they face in their everyday lives. Many disabled children are denied access to basic literacy and education in developing countries in general and Bangladesh in partiuclar. It is estimated that 98 percent of children with physical or mental impairments in developing countries do not attend school. The government has a strong role to play to mainstream education, health and other facilities for the persons with disabilities. Disability has strong association with poverty. Lower income countries have a higher prevalence of disability than higher income countries. Similarly disability is predominant in rural areas than in urban areas. Lack of medical facilities, inadequate insurance policy, dogmatic social values and weakening social security policies lead persons with disabilities towards poverty. But providing services for person with disabilities does not cost a lot of money it only requires a beautiful mind. We must ensure access for disabled persons to education and other basic necessities of life.
In his message the Secretary General of United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon said, “Persons with disabilities have a significant positive impact on society and their contributions can be even greater if we remove barriers to their participation. With more than one billion persons with disabilities in our world today, this is more important than ever.”
MASUM BILLAH: Program Manager, BRAC Education Program and Vice-President: Bangladesh English Language Teachers Association (BELTA), Dhaka, Bangladesh