PWDs’ inclusion

Pakistan needs to revamp its policies and allocate resources to accommodate needs of people with disabilities

Over one billion people live with some form of disability worldwide, according to United Nations PHOTO: FILE (Express Tribune)

The stark disparity between the actual population of people with disabilities (PWDs) and their registered numbers in Pakistan has been brought to the forefront by NOWPDP. This alarming revelation underscores the urgent need for addressing the registration gap and enhancing accessibility for PWDs in the country.

Official statistics from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and NADRA paint a contrasting picture. According to the 1998 census, PWDs comprised only 2.38% of the population while the 2017 census reported a mere 0.48%. The blatant gap between these numbers point towards the glaring issue of improper reporting, resulting in the community’s underrepresentation. The reasons behind this are multi-fold but one of the major factors is inaccessibility of the census process for most PWDs, including those with hearing and speech disabilities. The absence of sign language interpreters or other communication support services during data collection only exacerbates the issue. Moreover, some disabilities are not apparent or visible, leading census enumerators to potentially overlook or assume that an individual does not have a disability, resulting in skewed reporting. Recognising an individual as a person with a disability in Pakistan requires the issuance of a Special CNIC. This is not just symbolic as it grants access to education, healthcare, social welfare programmes and employment opportunities. It also plays a pivotal role in challenging societal stigmas and upholding the rights and dignity of PWDs, boosting their self-esteem and overall well-being. However, obtaining a Special CNIC can also be a daunting and time-consuming task for many such as those who suffer from autism.

To bridge the registration gap and ensure inclusivity, it is imperative for Pakistan to revamp its policies and resource allocations to better accommodate the needs of PWDs. Moreover, the government should actively engage with PWDs and their representative organisations to develop policies that genuinely address their unique needs and challenges. Their inclusion is important for their well-being.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2023.

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