An interactive panel discussion on the theme ‘Challenges and prospects of building an inclusive social order’ was held under Disability Dialogue at University of Jammu. The disability dialogue focussed on generating a debate and reflecting upon various dimensions of disability rights, policies and issues. The panel discussion was undertaken to deliberate upon issues confronting the person with disabilities in India with special focus on Jammu and Kashmir, highlighting the opportunities and avenues available for emancipation of personal with disabilities, and outlining strategies for overcoming the challenges and barriers faced by personal disabilities and bringing about transformative change in the society. The panelists for the discussion were Prof. Kusum Lata Malik, President of the Blind Federation, and a renowned academician and a researcher; Anil Joshi, Former member Board of Directors for National Trust Act, GoI and an accessibility diversity and inclusion expert; Ranjit Kalra member of the J & K Sports Council and Senior faculty at University of Jammu and Prof. Sarika Manhas, Coordinator, Disability Initiatives, University of Jammu.
Md. Iqbal Lone, Commissioner, Person with Disabilities, J & K chaired the panel discussion. In his opening remarks he highlighted that the persons with disabilities are an integral part of the society who need our compassion and acceptance. He shared that J & K stands at sixth place in national UDID card enrolment, pointing towards the earnest efforts of the UT administration. He also emphasized on the need of involving academia and researchers to successfully address the issues confronting the persons with disabilities.
Prof. Kusum Lata Malik in her address highlighted the need for strengthening education system and employment sector for making the persons with disabilities self-reliant. She suggested that inclusive education should be promoted through solemn efforts and discrepancies in employment opportunities should be minimized. Sh. Anil Joshi emphasized on the need of channelizing the energies of persons with disabilities. He pointed that in the modern times is it essential that technology is utilized and modified to ensure inclusion. He also noted that the non-disabled should interact with the disabled to understand their challenges and issues, and also need to collaborate to find solutions for these challenges.
Ranjeet Kalra shared that the Sports Policy of J & K has inputs and special provisions for disabled sports persons. He highlighted the recent achievements of Blind cricket team, wheelchair bound basketball players, and disabled archers to point that bodily limitations can be conquered successfully through personal perseverance, strong support network, and sustained training. Sh. Pardeep Dutta underlined the need of breaking off the ‘Victim mentality’. He focussed on developing feeling of humanism – which appreciates all without any prejudice. He suggested that sensitization workshops should be carried out for both bureaucracy and media, and exhorted upon the need of collective effort towards the cause of inclusion.
Prof. Sarika Manhas, Convener of the panel discussion in her concluding remarks mentioned that all stakeholder- persons with disabilities, NGOs, media, academia, students and volunteers need to participate and generate a disability discourse that successfully addresses the issue of inclusivity. She also pointed that inclusion is not a concept but rather a way of life that all of us need to imbibe.
Prominent among others who participated in the disability dialogue were Umesh Sharma (Disabled Care), Dr. Piyali Arora (Associate Prof. GDC Udhampur) Kamal Nain Bhan (Association of Aphasic and Deaf), Ms. Ritika (Beloved Grace), Ms. Shria Abrol (RCI Counsellor), Ms. Balkis Razia (Occupational Therapist), along with faculty, research scholars and students of University of Jammu and University of Kashmir. Officers from the Office of Commissioner Persons with Disabilities J & K, Relief and Rehabilitation Department also graced the occasion with their presence.