Many thousands of people with and without disabilities congregated at the India Gate to celebrate the World Disability Day or the International Day of Persons with Disabilities as it is now known. Organized by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) in partnership with the American India Foundation (AIF) on December 03 annually, the celebration witnessed rich cultural programs at this historic venue. The event culminated with The Walk to Freedom, a symbolic walk and an enthusiastic reminder of the struggles of the disability rights movement.
The NCPEDP-AIF Walk to Freedom event on International Day of Persons with Disabilities was supported by the National Association of the Deaf, Disability Rights Group, Disabled People’s International and Volunteers for the Blind.
The event was co-sponsored by Aza, Exl Service, Infosys, Microsoft, and Wipro.
The theme for 2019 is ‘The Future is Accessible’—a call to prioritize equity and accessibility.
The celebrations saw energetic performances by ‘We are One’ a dance group comprising of people with disabilities and without. They held the audience spellbound with their pirouettes. This was followed by performances by students from Muskaan, an organization started in 1992 by parents and professionals to provide services and facilities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.
The crowd swooned to a melodious performance by Diwakar Sharma, a blind person who started singing at the age of 4 and today, has sung in the President’s house, British High Commission and Vigyan Bhawan.
Arushi from the National Thalassemia Welfare Society gave a beautiful kathak performance. The National Association of Deaf performed a mime depicting the discrimination faced by people with disabilities on a daily basis.
Speaking at the occasion, A. S. Narayanan, President, National Association of the Deaf said, “Indian Sign Language should be recognized as the 23rd official language of India. We have sent petitions to the Ministry demanding an amendment in the Constitution to include Indian Sign Language as a mandate”.
Speaking at the occasion Mr. Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP said “We are just around the corner from the third anniversary of the enactment of the RPWD act. Yet even after all this, people with disabilities continue to face discrimination, they do not have access to fundamental rights like education, health. Accessibility remains the biggest hurdle. Women with disabilities are facing unprecedented violence. While there is a lot of noise around disability, it is yet to get its rightful place in the development space. If the future needs to be accessible, we should ensure that we are leaving no one behind. If we are consciously going to keep the numbers low, disability will continue to remain an issue.”
AIF’s Country Director Mathew Joseph said, “Ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities means more than building ramps and accessible restrooms. It calls for a change in basic attitudes. Small initiatives that can make a difference on the ground need to be started now so that we can make the change happen. Only when people with disabilities can live their lives free of unjust barriers, will the work be done. We are grateful to NCPEDP for their active engagement in this cause, and to Tarsadia Foundation USA for supporting AIF’s advocacy efforts. On behalf of the American India Foundation, we request everyone to come forward and support the call for greater accessibility to Persons with Disabilities.”
The event was concluded by the release of yellow and blue balloons, international colors of disability, symbolizing freedom. This was followed by Walk to Freedom 2019.