On May 19, 2023, a consultation on disability inclusion in the North Region was hosted by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People (NCPEDP), Latika Roy Foundation (LRF), and Disability Rights Advocacy Group (DRAG). Attendees included NGOs, disabled people’s organizations, disability rights professionals, state commissioners for the disabled and other government representatives. A vision for disability inclusion in the region for the next five to ten years was developed to express the views of disabled people across important thematic areas.
The transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda to ‘leave no one behind’ puts a clear onus on the state to ensure that all people have access to equitable and accessible education, employment, and health services. This consultation sought to understand the status of disability inclusion in North India, particularly in the context of gender and SDG realisation.
Conducted in English and Indian Sign Language, the consultation presented the state of disability inclusion in the North Region. Addressing issues of inclusive education, healthcare services, disability certification, the UDID card, access to information and infrastructure, employment, mainstreaming women, disability inclusion across the SDG goals, and disaster management readiness, it created plans to guarantee that no one is left behind.
Welcome remarks were given by Jo Chopra, Executive Director, LRF, and Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP. Jo Chopra reminded the audience that democracy works only when people insist that laws not just be enacted but implemented. India, she said, has some of the most progressive disability legislation in the world, yet schools continue to refuse admission to disabled children, building laws and hiring policies are ignored.
Arman Ali emphasized the need for a futuristic approach towards disability inclusion. He stressed the importance of creating an ecosystem that enables disabled persons to realize their full potential. He underscored the need for a multi-stakeholder approach that includes the government, civil society, the private sector, and disabled people themselves.
To promote inclusion in the area, participants stressed cooperation and partnerships between the government, civic society, and people with disabilities. Chief Guest Tarun Vijay, former member of the Rajya Sabha, emphasized the need to build an inclusive society. Inclusion is crucial for attaining the SDGs, he said, and it is the state’s duty to guarantee that everyone has access to services for healthcare, work, and education.
Suresh Chand Joshi, the State Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and Additional Secretary, Social Welfare, Uttarakhand, spoke of the necessity of policy interventions to address the difficulties disabled people face. According to him, the administration is dedicated to fostering an atmosphere that allows them to realize their potential.
Representatives from Delhi, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand presented state-specific case studies, difficulties and best practices. Inclusion programmes and policies were discussed along with implementation challenges. Gender-sensitive policies and programming, education that accommodates the variety of learning requirements of disabled children, employment and the importance of access to healthcare and rehabilitation facilities was also discussed.
In his closing remarks, Arman Ali emphasized that disability inclusion is a human rights issue. He called for continued collaboration and collective action towards creating a society that is truly inclusive and leaves no one behind.
A vision for the North Region’s approach to disability inclusion over the next five to ten years is one of the consultation’s anticipated outcomes, as was a report outlining the situation and offering suggestions for disability inclusion in the major thematic areas.