While observing the ‘International Day of Persons With Disabilities’ this year it is high time to realize that it is not a cosmetic one day affair but a day to introspect the progress made in addressing the issues of this section of the socie- ty and to reiterate the commitment to further intensi- fy the campaign to resolve the issues in the coming year with more enthusiasm and vigour. The most important part of the campaign in the direction of easing the life of persons with disabilities is spread- ing awareness regarding multiple disability issues and the fundamental rights of persons with disabili- ties. Started by the United Nations in 1992 the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ is aimed at promoting the rights and well-being of ‘Persons with Disabilities’ in the society. It has two primary goals: first, to promote full and equal partici- pation of persons with disabilities; and second, to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development. It is a stark reality that too often persons with disabilities are left out of conversations around the critical issues, even though they are among some of the most affected groups. Therefore the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ (IDPD) is a day for championing the rights of persons with disabilities and to increase awareness about the challenges individuals face globally. It is pertinent to mention here that 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development clearly states that disability cannot be a reason or criteria for lack of access to development programming and the real- ization of human rights. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework includes seven targets, which explicitly refer to persons with disabilities, and six further targets on persons in vul- nerable situations, which include persons with dis- abilities. This year, the theme for IDPD is “Leadership and participation of persons with disabil- ities towards an inclusive, accessible and sustain- able post-COVID-19 world.” The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is amplifying the observance with a pro- gramme that commenced on November 25. The pro- gramme’s theme and focus include building a ‘sus- tainable post-COVID-19 world by and for persons with disabilities.’ Using its social media platforms, UNESCO continues highlighting the stories and experiences of people living with disabilities during the past coronavirus pandemic. The past experience reveals that days dedicated towards specific causes are observed only ritually to create paper records and the real idea and spirit behind such days stand forgotten on the very next day, to which the ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ is no exception. Hence in the newly carved Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir there is a need for paradigm shift in the government’s approach towards problems of the persons with disabilities. As per a survey dis- abled persons are mostly living in such areas where the services needed to assist them in overcoming their limitations are not available. To a large extent, disabled persons are exposed to physical, cultural and social barriers which handicap their lives even if rehabilitation assistance is available. This is a clear indicator of the failure on the part of the society, be it the government or other agencies to make any progress on the front of addressing the genuine problems of the persons with disability in the society.
There is a dire need to change the attitude of the offi- cial machinery towards the significant ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ the observance of which seems to be reduced to a mere ritual. After all the grievances of this disabled lot who have been victims of apathy for long need to be addressed first and foremost by the government so that they don’t feel to be a neglected lot any more.