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Disability News India (DNI)

Disability News India (DNI), is a disability News service dedicated to providing a quality up-to-date information to the Indian Disability. DNI's news section is updated two times a week, though we also add breaking stories as and when they occur. DNI– Subscription

Disability News India – December Issue

IBM software to make disabled people tech savvy

New Delhi: It was a technology conference with a difference. IBM India announced the setting up of India's first ever Human Ability and Accessibility Centre in New Delhi, a centre that will create software to assist disabled people become tech savvy.

The Managing Director IBM India, Shanker Annaswamy says, "The idea is to enable tech ability of human beings using the available technology."

India has a staggering 70 million disabled people and the goal of the meet was to change prevalent notions about helping them.

IBM Human Ability and Accessibility Director, Francis West says, "The traditional view of disability is that they are a group of people that we have to help and therefore it's more of a charity sense of relationship."

On display were the accessibility products intended to make life easier for disabled people and get them into the mainstream. This software translates spoken Hindi into text. It makes web–browsing easy by customising font sizes, background and page–layouts. IBM says that the initial response has been good.

"The Government has participated, the National Trust has participated as has the department of social justice," says Annaswamy.

But any such innovation will come with a price tag. So can the average consumer afford it?

Annaswamy says that the goal is to make the software affordable. "We will work with our partners to make sure that it is accessible to them," he says.

While this could be the best gift that these specially–abled people could get, the accessibility and affordability of the product will decide its success.

Source: http://www.ibnlive.com

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As Indian economy booms but disabled people fall behind: World Bank

A new World Bank report finds that in the decade since economic liberalisation, as India achieves unprecedented levels of economic growth, low employment and literacy rates among disabled people mean that India's 90 million disabled people are not benefiting from that growth. The report stresses the need for a multi–sectoral and multi–faceted approach so that the full potential of India's disabled population is realised

Despite enacting landmark legislation to promote the rights of persons with disability in the past decade and an increasing awareness of their marginalisation, India's actions to promote the rights of 8% of its 1.1 billion citizens has been found wanting, according to 'People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes', a new report released by the World Bank.

Commissioned by the Indian government in 2004 to benefit from the experience of the World Bank which has examined issues surrounding disability in other developing countries, the report explores the social and economic situation of a group that numbers around 40 million people, according to the most conservative estimates, and up to 90 million according to unofficial figures.

'People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes' finds that there has been a 5% drop in the employment rate of disabled people individuals in the decade leading up to 2002. The consequent increase in the gap in employment between disabled people, who have a far lower employment rate than the general population, and non–disabled people, according to the report, is cause for major concern.

The fall in the employment rate of working age disabled people from 42.7% in 1991 to 37.6% in 2002 was, according to the report, almost universal across the country and also across all education levels.

Maintaining that it is not desirable or possible for the public sector to "do it all", the report finds the private sector has been negligent in this regard. "Private sector employment incentives for hiring disabled people are few and piecemeal," it says. In the late–1990s, employment of people with disability among large private firms was only 0.3% of their workforce. Among MNCs, the situation is far worse, with only 0.05% of the workforce constituting people with disability.

The report also finds that there were substantial differences in socio–economic outcomes, social stigma, and access to services by disability type, with those suffering from mental illness and mental retardation in a particularly poor situation. In surveys carried out for the report, around 50% of households saw the cause of disability as a "curse of God", the report says.

The report finds that disabilities seriously compromise economic prospects. "People with disability are subject to multiple deprivations with households with disabled members being significantly poorer than average, having lower consumption and fewer assets," says the report. For instance, children living with disability are around four to five times less likely to be in school than children from scheduled tribes and scheduled castes, according to the World Bank report.

With better education and greater access to jobs, India's disabled people would generate higher growth and thus benefit the country as a whole, the report adds. "Disabled people who are better educated and economically more active will generate higher growth in which everyone will share," says Philip O'Keefe, the Bank's lead social protection specialist in South Asia human development and the main author of the report. "Increasing the status and social and economic participation of people with disability would have positive effects on everyone, not just disabled people," says O'Keefe.

The Indian government has generally supported the World Bank's recommendations and taken steps to provide cheap travel, government jobs and university places for disabled groups, O'Keefe added.

Another worrying revelation in the World Bank report is that India may be grossly underestimating the number of its citizens living with disability, both mental and physical. There are far more physically or mentally disabled people than the best government estimates suggest, the report says, making it more of a 'guesstimate'. For instance, the report finds that approximately one in 12 households in India has a disabled member, compared with the one in 50 counted by the latest National Statistical Survey.

In terms of future predictions, the report says that as the country makes economic progress, the incidence of communicable disease–induced disabilities such as polio were likely to fall, whereas age and lifestyle–related disabilities and those due to traffic accidents are expected to rise sharply. For example, the lowest reported disability rates are in sub–Saharan Africa while the highest are in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. "This is an issue that will continue in India and probably increase in India as it gets richer and as it gets older," says O'Keefe.

A decade after a law came into force promoting the rights of persons with disability to full economic and social participation in society, progress has not reached near the desired level, the World Bank report observes. The report characterises India's policy framework on disability as "progressive", but says it is poorly implemented and virtually disappears at the panchayat or village level. "India's action in providing help to the disabled was generally weak, and there was lack of awareness of available services among disabled people " the report says.

Isabella Guerrero, country director for India, World Bank, appreciated the policy regime put in place by the government for disabled people. "India has an impressive set of policy commitments to its citizens with disability. The challenge facing Indian society now is to translate those commitments into better lives for disabled people," Guerrero said while releasing the report. "The real challenge is to get the policy framework into practice, particularly in rural areas and the further down the system you go," agrees O'Keefe.

O'Keefe's concern is borne out by the fact that as far as the states are concerned, despite the approval of a national policy for the disabled in 2006, only two states out of 28 –– Chhattisgarh and Karnataka –– have draft disability policies.

Noting that India's implementation capacity is "generally weak in a number of areas of service delivery, which are most critical to improving the situation of disabled people," the report calls for the involvement of non–public sectors as also greater coordination between public and private institutions. The key step in such partnerships is bringing disabled people themselves into the policymaking process along with public and non–governmental institutions, it adds.

The report recommends implementation of additional policy measures like preventive care for both mother and children, identifying people with disabilities as soon as possible after onset –– for example in very young children –– and getting all children with special needs into school and preparing them for the workplace and family life. Most importantly, working to reduce the social stigma that disabled people face daily, and in almost every sphere.

Source: http://www.infochangeindia.org

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Vodafone product for hearing impaired

Vodafone Essar, one of India's leading cellular service providers, on the occasion of World Disability Day, has announced a prepaid 'Sambhav Card' at Rs 151, targeting the hearing impaired.

A first of its kind initiative and available only in Bengal as of now, Vodafone has joined hands with the International Deaf Children's Society – India (IDCS) to ensure it reaches as many deaf people as possible.

According to Sridhar Rao, CEO of Vodafone Essar–East, "At Vodafone, we have been offering tailor–made services for various corporate clients as well as others. Since, telecom is all about communication, we thought of introducing a product for the hearing impaired as well, to enable them to communicate too."

This card offers 500 local SMS for Rs 151 per month.

The card is valid for one month and is available across 15 Vodafone stores and 68 Vodafone mini stores in Kolkata.

In addition to the card, a Vodafone team will hold SMS workshops at institutes partnering with IDCS, to educate disabled people on how to write and access SMS on their mobile phones.

Source: http://www.business–standard.com

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COL to collaborate with IGNOU to improve disability studies

New Delhi: The Commonwealth of Learning (COL), a Commonwealth sister organization is all set to collaborate with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to launch a host of useful schemes for disabled people.

The announcement was made by Mr. John Daniel, Chief Executive Officer, COL, and Vice President Prof Asha S Kanwar at a workshop organized by IGNOU at its campus.

While addressing the workshop, Prof Kanwar said, "IGNOU has a special role to play in this regard keeping in mind the information and communication facilities and large scale presence of the university throughout the globe."

Talking about the need of research on curriculum framework for courses focusing on disabilities, IGNOU vice chancellor, Prof VN Rajashekharan Pillai said, "IGNOU will observe the state of research in higher institutions with regard to curriculum for disabled people. This workshop will make provision for enhanced research activities in area of disability studies for the purpose proper implementing the recent government schemes."

IGNOU, being the world's largest Open University, would carry out research and developmental works for disabled people more effectively in association with COL.

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning / distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.

COL is helping developing nations improve access to quality education and training.

Source: http://www.indiaedunews.net

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Celebrating abilities in disabilities

New Delhi: Fifty–seven organisations from all across India working with the disabled participated in a two–day 'Abilities Mela' on weekend to demonstrate the skills and talents of people suffering from variety of disabilities.

Started in July 2004, this was the fourth such festival being organised in the national capital. However, it was for the first time that the National Trust, a statuary body with the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, working for the welfare of people with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities was organising it with support from companies like Cadbury, Nestle, ITC Welcome Group, IBM, Honeywell International, Tata Chemicals, PriceWaterhouse Coopers and Pantaloons among others.

Poonam Natrajan, chairperson of the National Trust said that her organisation was now planning to replicate the festival in all state capitals of India. Explaining the objective behind holding such a festival she said the idea was not just to help them sell their products but also improve them so that they became more marketable.

One of the biggest problems that disabled people face is of unemployment. Their employment rate both in public and private sector is abysmally low. More often than not, it is the mental block of the able–bodied people and not the disability of a person, which becomes an impediment when it comes to employing a disabled person.

A job fair, to address the issue of disability and employment, was another feature of the festival. Ms Natrajan informed that 62 people in all appeared for interviews for jobs in companies and organisations like the IBM, Maurya Sheraton, Jindal Group, Handicap International, HelpAge India and few others. "They were quite impressed by some of our candidates. A few of them have even been short–listed," she said ecstatically.

According to the Census 2001, approximately 2.19 crore people i.e. 2.13% of the total population in India were with disabilities, about 75% of them living in rural areas. Ms Natrajan said: "Firstly, the definition of disability itself needs to be revised. Secondly, there is this stigma attached because of which people do not like to report disabled persons in the family. Even enumerators are also reluctant to pose this question before them so as not to embarrass the family. Clearly a better method of carrying out surveys needs to be devised."

Disputing the figures given by the Census of India or the National Sample Survey she said these were very conservative estimates. Her estimate is that no less than 4% to 6% population of India is with disabilities of one kind or the other. "May be even more, if you look at the figures that are reported from more developed countries. Like in Australia it is 14% and in the US it is 17%. Obviously there is some problem when it comes to India's estimates," she probed.

Ms Natrajan also rued over the lack of schooling facilities for the disabled. "A lot of children with disabilities are out of schools. As it is, the special schools take care of only 2% of disabled children and even they do not prepare them for the skills that are required in the market."

She felt that although a lot had been achieved by way of various government schemes and civil society initiatives, there was still a plenty more to be done to make people with disabilities live a life of dignity.

Source: http://southasia.oneworld.net

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Full–time commissioner for disabled people sought

BHUBANESWAR: Several organisations and experts working for the cause of the differently abled have demanded appointment of a full–time commissioner for persons with disabilities.

Members rued that absence of a fulltime commissioner has left the body practically redundant, as there has been little move to solve the perennial problems of the differently abled people since the commissioner's post came into existence three years back.

Participating in a workshop to mark 'World Disability Day' on Monday, they criticised the Government for overlooking the Disability Act of 1995, which mandates appointment of a person with special knowledge or practical experience as a commissioner.

At present, Secretary to the Women and Child Development Department is handling this additional responsibility.

The Orissa Vikalang Mancha stated that at a time when Orissa fares much worse than other States in ensuring the rights of physically challenged people, non–appointment of a full–time official exposes the Government's lack of concern for them.

Manch convenor Umesh Purohit demanded that the State Government must implement in letter and spirit reservation in jobs for the physically challenged. He demanded review of the existing disability laws in India and suitable amendments.

Purohit remarked that before celebrating the disability day, the Government must review the performance of the disability commissioner. The Disability Act of 1995 states that the commissioner in coordination with various departments should look into programmes and schemes for the benefit of people with disability.

He should monitor utilisation of funds disbursed by the State Government and take steps to ensure the rights and facilities made available to the disabled.

Bhubaneswar Mayor Mihir Mohanty, who addressed the seminar, said several steps were being contemplated to make Bhubaneswar a disabled– friendly city.

In this regard, he asked the voluntary organisations to come up with plans and make representations to the Government.

The workshop also resolved to meet industry representatives for job creations.

Source: http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp

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World Disability Day was celebrated

Dec. 3: World Disability Day was celebrated today in various parts of the country by organisations and institutions.

In Delhi, a large number of disabled persons gathered at India Gate in the Capital on Monday to celebrate World Disability Day. Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit was present there as chief guest on the occasion to lend her support for disabled people.

The theme for this year's event was "Celebrating United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – Ek Nayi Umang". Participants from across the country came together in a show of solidarity.

Representatives from several non–government organisations and societies were also present on the scene.

The National Association of the Deaf took out a march from India Gate to Jantar Mantar to express their support to the cause of disabled people demanding equal access to quality education and better employment opportunities.

In Mumbai, It was a special moment for special children from 25 schools in Mumbai. On the International Day of Disabled Persons, Bollywood stars Kajol and Tanisha dropped in to meet the children and add some Bollywood sparkle to the occasion.

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Job portal for disabled people

Bangalore: Finally, a job portal for persons with disabilities. The Department of Welfare of Disabled people and Senior Citizens in collaboration with Partners in Change (PiC), a non–governmental organisation, has developed a website that will enable persons with disabilities to look for employment opportunities in various sectors.

Speaking to presspersons here on Saturday, M.V. Vedamurthy, Director, said: "Around 36,000 persons with disabilities have enrolled themselves with the employment exchange and the department is collecting their details and will put this up on the website. Companies willing to recruit disabled persons can visit the website and get information on eligible candidates."

The website, www.karnatakapwdjobs.com will allow persons with disabilities to hunt for jobs anywhere in India and provides for companies to post their jobs free of charge.

Mr. Vedamurthy said the department was implementing the rural rehabilitation scheme that would provide jobs to 5,828 persons as well as enable persons with disabilities to avail themselves of all the schemes and benefits they were entitled to from the different departments at their doorstep through the rural rehabilitation workers at the gram panchayat level. The government had sanctioned Rs. 5.92 crore for this programme, he added.

Manasa Kendras, short stay homes for mentally ill persons, would also be set up in Bangalore, Belgaum, Shimoga, Bellary and Koppal. "They can stay there for a few months while they are recuperating from their illness," he said.

Source: http://www.hindu.com/2007/12/02/stories/2007120261590300.htm

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Disabled people want government to do more

BANGALORE: The Akhila Karnataka Angavikalara Horata Samiti has asked the government to do more for disabled people.

Speaking to presspersons here on Saturday, president of the State unit of the samiti Umesh S. Kulkarni said the demands include permanent employment for disabled people contract employees who had completed 240 days of employment; free passes for disabled persons; free sites under the Ashraya scheme and free education till postgraduation and so on.

Mr. Rafiq Ahmed, State general secretary, urged disabled persons to vote without fail in the next elections so as to be a viable constituency.

The samiti's demands would be finalised at the December 29 meeting with Secretary, Women and Child Development, Shalini Rajanish.

The final demands would be put forth to the Governor for implementation.

The samiti also thanked the State government for selecting Mr. Rafiq Ahmed and samiti's district organising secretary Ramadas for this year's State Awards, which would be presented to them on Monday.

Source: http://www.hindu.com/2007/12/02/stories/2007120261570300.htm

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Mini–Olympics for disabled children

LUCKNOW: Mini special Olympics for disabled children, UDAAN–2007, was inaugurated by Lt Gen Gautam Dutt, VSM, chief of staff, Central Command, Lucknow, on Saturday as part of World Disability Day which falls on Monday.

The event has been organised by the Catholic Diocese of Lucknow in association with the Diocesan Social Work Society, Lucknow, for special kids from across the states of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

In his inaugural address, Lt Gen Dutt said, "We should not consider these kids disabled. These are the special kids who have been blessed by God with special abilities to do many things. We need to encourage them to come forward and to do the best with their abilities".

The event will showcase sports activities like bun–biting, balloon bursting, standing long jump, soft ball throw, medicine ball throw and various types of race.

On Saturday, in the age–group of 11–15 disabled girls, Manju was declared the winner of 100–metre race and Aman was declared winner in the boys category. Saraswati won the first prize in medicine ball throw for visually impaired girls and Ramdev stood first in boys category. In long jump for hearing impaired girls and boys, first prize went to Juphiya and Pankaj respectively.

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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IBM Bid for Accessibility for Disabled People

The first ever "Human Ability and Accessibility Center" has been inaugurated in the country by IBM India.

Its mission statement being to make information and technology easily accessible to people with visual, cognitive, hearing, and motor disabilities. And in the event, possibly drawing upon an untapped resource namely, disabled people who might otherwise be able to make some contribution to the overall quality of life.

Located out of the India Research Lab in New Delhi, the "Human Ability and Accessibility Center" aims at catering to diverse needs of accessibility stakeholders, including government bodies, corporates, academic institutions, researchers, and NGOs.

The key objectives of the center include: to provide technology to empower disabled people, which includes people who are at an educational– and economical– disadvantage; to provide technology to other companies working towards widening the net of education and information; and to collaborate with key government bodies on accessibility–related policy and standards in the country.

Announcing the initiative, Shanker Annaswamy, managing director of IBM India & South Asia, said, "India faces a growing need for inclusive development that fundamentally depends on addressing social, economic, and physical disadvantages, and creating opportunities for every individual to realize the fullest potential".

"Globally and in India, IBM champions accessibility needs by bringing technologies and innovations that empower disabled people and the socially disadvantaged through initiatives such as these."

The center will deploy some innovative solutions developed by IBM Research; including Easy Web Browsing for the visually impaired, WebAdopt2Me for people with cognitive impairments or low vision, IBM aDesigner, a disability simulator, Hindi Speech recognition, and Sensei, an English assessment tool, to facilitate human capability so that everyone can maximize their potential, regardless of ability or disability.

Meanwhile, the meaning of accessibility is to enable IT hardware, software, and services so that they can be used by more people, either directly, or in combination with assistive technologies.

Source: http://www.techtree.com

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Access to public spaces still a distant dream

CHENNAI: Disabled People, access to public spaces is still a distant dream as several organisations gear up to observe the International Day of Disabled Persons that falls on Monday.

The State–level meet for children with special needs began on Saturday at Rajarathinam Stadium, Egmore. The lack of ramps practically put the viewing gallery off–limits to several children in wheelchairs.

There are no toilets close to the grounds, let alone disabled–friendly ones. These features are mandatory in public buildings, according to the Development Control Rules (DCR), government officials working with disabled people conceded.

The stadium is to be renovated shortly and disabled–friendly features would be added then, they said. It was used for conducting the State–level games last year also.

A few thousand children from across the State participated in the sports meet that included running, walking and wheelchair races and a long jump competition. There was also a contest for gathering potatoes.

The meet was declared open by Social Welfare Minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna.

N.S. Palaniappan, Secretary to Government, Social Welfare and Noon Meal Programme, and Salma, Chairman, Tamil Nadu Social Welfare Board, participated.

The DCR require provision of "minimum one special toilet for the use of disabled people as specified in National Building Code with essential provision of washbasin near the entrance for disabled people."

The rules also require provision of handrails on stairs, ramps of specified incline and minimum length and lifts large enough to accommodate wheelchairs.

One of the steps the Social Welfare and Nutritious Meals Department, in its policy note for 2005–06, had vowed to take was "to introduce measures for the removal of architectural barriers in all buildings, to provide easy access and indeed all barriers to the successful adjustment of disabled people."

Access to public spaces can only be improved when people are sensitised to the needs of disabled people, said R. Muniappan of College Students and Graduates Association of the Blind.

For instance, he has encountered conductors and drivers of Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses, who would not help clear the seats reserved for disabled people.

Source: http://www.hindu.com/2007/12/02/stories/2007120258910300.htm

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