KARACHI: Department of Special Education, University of Karachi (UoK) on Monday organized 1st international conference entitled empowering persons with disabilities, and developing resilience and inclusive sustainable development at its premises.
While addressing the inaugural ceremony, Ahsan Ali Mangi Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Government of Sindh, said that around 15% (1 billion people) of world population live with some disability which needs special assistance and technologies to ensure their undeterred access to all services, unbundling their potential and availing opportunities in life.
The developed world has developed special legal frameworks and access standards to ensure free and easy access of all, including PWD, in buildings, public transport, information electronic and otherwise etc. All these steps have been taken not as welfare for the PWD but as their fundamental right being equal citizens of the country.
He informed the audience that awareness about special needs for persons for disabilities was acknowledged by the government of Pakistan in early 1980s, resulting in legislation by the federal government for training, welfare and employment of persons with disabilities, a special education department was also created at the federal level with the aim to create institutions and training centers to cater to the educational and skills needs of PWD. Government of Pakistan also signed and ratified UN convention on the rights of the persons with disabilities in 2011, however general awareness of the issue in the society and positive steps to ensure rights and access to PWDs remained less then desired.
Prof. Dr Nasir Salman, dean faculty of education KU said that we must realize that PWDs, in growing numbers, exists each day of the year. We also must remember that while we aim to increase awareness of disability, the larger societal need extends way beyond awareness. Our nation still lacks a strong commitment to assuring that each person living with disability is provided an opportunity to realize a quality of life so many is still denied. Today, most people living with disability are discriminated against in employment and access to a quality education.
He added that today the real question that must be asked is will we as a nation on each day of the year really commit to allow each person living with disability to advance on a successful path, free of unnecessary obstacles to maximize his or her quality of life. When that is the reality, we can then celebrate as a nation that we did something right.
Chairperson, department of special education, Dr Humera Aziz said that this conference is merely one of the many endeavors the department has taken to better understand the diversity in its entirety. It will also promote a feeling of togetherness which will be achieved while addressing this gigantic task at hand i.e. educating children with special needs. It will serve to be an experience of morale boosting, motivational and contributive as well as a role of defining opportunity.
Prof. Dr Shahida Sajjad, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, Malir University said that the 2030 agenda is a global commitment including the government of Pakistan to build a better future for all people, including Persons with disabilities by their inclusion and empowerment which is imperative for building sustainable and resilient societies.
Aftab Abdul Khan from Longwood University Virginia, USA in his keynote said there is a lack of special education practices in developing countries like Pakistan. This creates frustration among parents and professionals as they don’t see educational, behavioral and linguistic improvements in individuals with special needs. Universities have a greater role to play in this regard.
“I consider the responsibilities on conducting the quality and productive studies are on higher education students’ shoulders. Furthermore, universities, especially the programs those connected with education should take lead to design, implement, and evaluate many specially designed instructions that make the lives of people with special needs better and productive.
In the not so distant past, especially in the US, many identified with a disability were excluded from public schools. But, in present days inclusion is a common practice in all publically supported programs of education in the US. This milestone was achieved through doing many diverse studies in the field of special education,” Aftab added.
Prof Dr Mohammad Ilyas Khan from Hamad Medical Corporation Doha Qatar said that the purpose of special education is to enable students to successfully develop to their fullest potential by providing a free appropriate public education in compliance with the individuals with Disabilities Education Act.