The decision was taken at the end of the Regional Leadership Conference for Persons with Disability jointly organized by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education, British Council, Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP), Telenor Pakistan and Sightsavers. More than 150 representatives with disabilities from the country and abroad participated in the event.
In collaboration with the governments, Asia-Pacific Center of Disability (APCD), corporate sectors, international NGOs, sub-regional and regional agencies, UN agencies and other partners, the SADF is expected to play a role to highlight a regional focus on the inclusion of persons with disabilities as a development priority. The secretariat of SADF will be located in Islamabad.
Making another important announcement on this occasion, the Secretary for Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education Muhammad Ather Tariq said that in the new National Labor Policy, quota for PWDs will be increased from 2 to 3 per cent.
The conference participants acknowledge that there is a growing concern of disability within the region and further actions should be taken by all stakeholders including both government and non-government sectors in South Asia ensuring that the persons with disability are entitled to enjoy the same rights, privileges and opportunities as other citizens.
The participants also noticed that there are attitudinal barriers with metaphors, jargons and phrases which reinforce exclusion of persons with disabilities in South Asia and agreed that such terminologies as special parks and special buildings be replaced with other appropriate words.
They noted that present judicial systems, governance and administrative structures in South Asia are usually not conducive to the needs of PWDs and recognized the need of measures to be taken to address these issues. The participants also urged all stakeholders to consider research and development opportunities to demonstrate good practices and raise awareness in general public.
They stressed the importance of education and training in an inclusive manner with support from governments, APCD, corporate sectors, international NGOs in close consultations with sub-regional and regional agencies, UN agencies and other partners bearing in mind a large number of persons with disabilities being excluded in communities across South Asian countries.
They also called for community- based inclusive development programs and emphasized that accessibility standards should implied in the construction and refurbishment of commercial, public buildings and other disability-sensitive communications by using accessible format in any type of materials. They also stressed that poverty reduction programs should mainstream disability issues from regional perspective.
Executive Director Asian-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD), Akiie Ninomiya, said that they have found Pakistan the best for establishing 'South Asian Disability Forum' because of the potential of people and geographic location of the country. He said that mobility is the major issue being faced by PWDs. He urged South Asian countries to focus on health, education and community involvement of PWDs to make them useful citizens.